The Lost Art of Listening: Part 4 – Listening in Context

In the previous post, we described the continuous process of how to really listen to each other, now we’re going to explain the importance of it. When the lines of communication break down, it can damage or destroy our closest relationships, as well as create a domino effect on our other relationships. Couples who have recurring unsolved issues often believe the other person needs to “fix” certain habits or aspects about themselves. But the solution isn’t usually as simple as that, it may temporarily alleviate the symptoms of the problem, but it fails to address the root of the problem. Discussions are the best course of action to take, and couples who reopen those lines of communication often find they don’t need the other person to change. All relationships require some level of compromise, playing the blaming game, keeping score, and hurling complaint after complaint against each other achieve nothing but frustration.

Listening requires openness towards others, as well as a greater awareness of yourself. Consider things you might be doing that would upset the other person, who in turn responds in a way that upsets you more. Sometimes its difficult to gauge which circumstances it’s appropriate to be candid, interrupt and dole out advice or sit quietly and absorb it. If you’re frustrated the other person isn’t doing as they’re told, it could be because they don’t like the manner they are spoken to. As difficult as it is, keeping your emotions in check are crucial in reducing misunderstandings and defensiveness. It’s important to note that, understanding or acknowledging someone’s different point of view does not necessarily mean you are agreeing with them. Relationships go through cycles of growth and decay, and it’s how we respond to these changes that help define who we are.

Developing better communication skills with friends and family is an ongoing but worthwhile process. You can’t force others to change, but you can change how you respond by being an empathetic listener that inspires those around you to reciprocate the gesture and continue the cycle. Once you recognize patterns of behavior in your relationships, you can start to make changes. Responsive listening is one of a few ways to develop a mutual understanding in relationships. Responsive listening is the active process of hearing and acknowledging the other person’s thoughts and feelings before expressing your own. If you want the truth from someone, you need to create a safe space for that person to say it.

Our listening skills tend to be at its worst when we need it the most, since factors like bad habits, stress and conflict worsen the situation. Family members tend to portray complementary roles, where one person is dominant (strong), and the other is submissive (weak). These roles are attempts to stabilize an unbalanced family unit. One on one interactions with your friends and family allow people a chance to interact without distractions or fear of being judged by an audience. Our relationships outside the family pack are more open and receptive since they are less burdened with conflict and resentment.

Friends make the best listeners, they are the people we choose to spend our time with, instead of people we are obligated to spend time with. You can talk to friends about almost anything, and when they listen, they make us feel special. With our busy lives it’s hard to make time for close friendships, they somehow fall off our calendar, but spending quality time with friends should be a priority. Their influence can be comforting and energizing to inspire us to keep going. That feeling will resonate through all our other personal and professional relationships. Remember that listening is a gift, share the wealth and don’t take it for granted!

Recovery after Abuse: Get in Touch with Your Heart

The Lost Art of Listening Part 3: Getting Through to Each Other