If you want to improve your relationships, the most important thing to do is improve how you communicate.
When both people know and understand how to communicate properly, they feel connected, heard and understood. But when effective communication is lacking, both people can become defensive, and relationships can deteriorate down to distrust, defensiveness, and resentment.
When couples hit rock-bottom, it’s important to learn critical communication skills – primarily how to listen to your partner.
If you find you and your partner (or anyone else in your life) are struggling to understand each other, here are three essential listening skills that can help improve your relationships and communication today!
There’s only one catch: you have to actually do them! 😉
How To Improve Your Relationships
1. Validate feelings
To validate someone’s feelings, you need to understand what they are saying and feeling from their point of view. This does not mean you have to agree with them. It just means that you can see their point.
When responding to something they said, you can validate them by saying something like, “That makes sense because…“ Or “I can see how you might think or feel…“
You may not (and likely will not) always understand their point of view. In these instances, it’s helpful to ask for more information in a way that is positive and inviting, not negative or defensive. This could sound something like, “Can you tell me more about…” instead of “I don’t understand what you mean.”
2. Mirror their words
This exercise will require you to reflect or “mirror“ everything your partner is saying in their own words. Yes, it will feel a bit awkward at first, but it is an incredibly effective technique. Over time, it will begin to feel natural and significantly improve your interactions.
When you repeat what your partner (or anyone) has said, you may start your response with something like, “I hear you saying…“ Or “It sounds like what you’re saying is…“
By starting off with this type of language, it allows you to slow down, process what your partner is saying, and can make the entire interaction feel more comfortable.
The longer you practice this skill, the more you will actually hear what your partner says and understand how they feel.
Stephen Covey said it best, “Listen with the intent to understand, not respond.” This simple skill allows you to do exactly that – and improve your relationships!
3. Empathize With Them
The final step to improve your relationship, is recognizing the emotions someone is experiencing in the moment.
Note, you don’t have to understand why they are feeling what they are feeling, you simply have to acknowledge their feelings.
This will require you to go deeper than thoughts and head into the vulnerable territory of feelings! You will want to use phrases like, “It sounds like you were really pissed when…“ Or “It seems like you felt angry when…“
Empathizing is extremely important because it shows your partner that how they feel matters to you.
Though it will take time to get the hang of these new listening skills, the effort is well worth it in the long run. Mastering these simple communication skills will improve every relationship in your life.
People want to be around someone who makes them feel heard, understood, and respected. By implementing these three simple techniques, you will be doing exactly that for everyone you encounter.
Life is too short to feel misunderstood or struggle to communicate with others. If you feel like you’re doing everything you can to improve your relationships, but can’t make it work, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you bridge the gap and master these skills together.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.