Listening and Paying Attention to Your Partner

Paying and listening to your partner can build resilience in your relationship

Paying attention to your partner is one of the most powerful things you can do to support your relationship. This is according to the best research by one of the leading authorities on couples counseling.  John, Gottman, PhD.  boasts more than 25 years of research on the topic of a healthy relationship. He and his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman assert that one of the most potent factors in a good relationship is listening and paying attention to your partner.

One way to pay attention is to learn to listen. Listening is an underrated skill and it isn’t easy to do.  If you think about it, therapists are professional listeners. Take it from Prince Ea, giving your honey attention is the key to a happy relationship.

First, what are the benefits of being a good listener?

  • You build trust.
  • The bond between you increases.
  • If you really listen, you might  learn something new.
  • Even if you are close to someone and think you know what the person is going to say, you can often be surprised.
  • You will make the person feel important and they usually reward you with more attention and affection.

Why Are We So Bad at Listening?

Research tells us that 47% of the time, we are not paying attention. Richie Davidson, University of Wisconsin. We live in a fast-paced world and we always seem to be going at full speed. Because we increasingly like our food fast and our video entertainments faster and we don’t like being stuck in traffic, even if we are not in a hurry, we seem to cut out listening.

  • The attention span of our current society keeps getting shorter.
  • We have a hard time getting out of our own head
  • Most of us underrate the importance of listening.
  • Some people are naturally better at this than other
  • We are not taught how to listen.
  • Many of us are self-absorbed, not exactly an attractive quality

Think of someone who is close to you and that you trust.  Is being a good listener one of their best qualities? I know very few people who do not like to be heard or understood and even if you think you know what they are going to say, give them a chance to say it without interrupting. How often are you already thinking about what you are going to say next instead of really listening? You DO NOT have to give your opinion. Just understanding or letting the person vent can be healing and can turn you into their BFF.

How Can We Learn More About How to Really Listen?

You might say we are busy, we have a lot of responsibilities. Arrange a time to listen that has an end time.  It might be a date night thing, or a coffee on the weekend thing. It can be a few minutes each day, it doesn’t have to go on for hours. But you can dedicate some time for listening.

The more you practice deep or active listening, the more you will learn to listen actively.

How To Pay Attention as a Listener

Recognize that the person needs to vent or get something out. Or they might just find that talking about “nothing much” is a way of sharing themselves and what is going on in their life. It is your role just to hear what is being said. You don’t need to offer an opinion, you don’t need to offer a fix.  Nod, if you understand so that it encourages the person to share. Ask a short question that will help clarify, so you really get it.  Paraphrase if you are uncertain. They will usually let you know you are getting what they mean. Wait. Be curious. Be patient. Look your partner, friend in the eye.

Just being willing to listen shows you care and understand what is being said is important to them. You don’t have to agree, you only need to hear and try to understand how the person feels. Because we want to solve problems for others, we are tempted to do that but sometimes it is best to just listen. Most important, if you are trusted with information, it is not yours to share with anyone else.  If you want to know if it is ok to share the information, you need to get your friend’s permission.

Learn to Share Your Feelings

Because listening is a two way street, when it is your turn to share, be willing to talk with your partner.  Practicing listening is a powerful tool for couples.

What has been your experience with this?  I think some people have a natural talent for listening. Notice how much people who listen are valued? But anyone can improve.

Myriam Mayshark, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor in the state of New York

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