Communication in itself can be tricky and complicated, but it is such an essential tool for us as people to connect with others. It is a tool that we constantly have to have in all our relationships and one that requires as much give... as it does take. Broken down into its two primary characteristics, effective communication requires 1) sending the actual message effectively and 2) active listening.For this particular post, I wanted to focus on active listening. From my recent work with couples and facilitating groups, the topic of active listening has come up quite a lot. Like communication, active listening also requires two parts when broken down. Active listening requires 1) listening intently and paying attention to the message that is being sent by the other person and 2) validation and reflecting.Where there tends to be a lot of issues among couples is part 1 of active listening. Especially during emotional or heated conversations, we may be 'listening' to our partners but we are not taking the time to really listen to the message being sent because we are waiting to respond and 'fire back.' This happens for a lot of reasons like feeling the need to defend yourself in front of your partner, literally not wanting to hear what your partner has to say, or emotionally checking out of the conversation until it's your turn to speak. Over time, these actions can lead to destructive communication styles and you may find yourself stuck in the same arguments over and over with your partner.Part 2 of active listening is just as important as part 1. Both being able to tell your partner that you understand where they are coming from and that their feelings are valid is so important. It is one thing to be heard... but it is another to feel understood.So if you feel like there is some room for improvement in your communication skills, consider the following questions:
- On a scale of 0-10, how would I rate myself as a listener?
- What areas could I improve in with my listening (and communication) skills?
- Who modeled communication for me growing up? Were they effective communicators?
- Who in my life, past or present, would I consider good communicators? Why?