Developing Your Listening Skills 

People often have difficulty really listening to their partner. Listening requires more than simply remaining quiet while the other person is talking (although many people struggle with doing just that). Truly listening to the other person means paying attention to what they are saying. Listening is a skill that many people struggle with and this can negatively impact relationships.

Sometimes people are so busy preparing how they are going to respond to the other person that they have difficulty listening. They stop listening at some point and begin to rehearse their response. This can cause the listener to miss their partner’s true concern or the point of the whole conversation.

Other times, people attempt to find underlying meaning in what their partner is saying. Instead of just focusing on hearing what is said, they are looking for facial gestures and nonverbal cues to help them guess what their partner is really inferring. For example, a person may be talking about not wanting to eat pizza for dinner that night and their partner is assuming that it is because her partner doesn’t like the way she cooks it.

Sometimes people enjoy debating so much that they love to disagree about everything. When their partner is explaining something, instead of listening, the other person is planning a rebuttal.  When relationships are having problems, this can occur frequently, or even become the most common way to communicate.  The couple is then left to argue about everything and anything while defending their position instead of listening to the other person. These disagreements can vary between small arguments about whether the new couch is brown or tan to large disagreements about parenting and money.

The need to always be right also impacts some people’s ability to really listen. People who want to always be right often feel judged and criticized when given feedback. This can cause them to become defensive, which impacts their ability to listen to their partner.

If you have difficulty listening to your partner, practice learning new skills.  Learning how to listen to one another effectively can help you to communicate better, solve problems more effectively, and get your needs met. For people struggling to learn new skills, therapy may be helpful.

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