Time without attention is worthless…
Listen like a shrink…
Powerful listening goes beyond hearing words and messages; it connects us emotionally with our partner. It is equally important to listen to what your partner is NOT saying, as it is important as to what they are saying, whether that be the nature of their body language or a deep core vulnerability that just isn’t being expressed openly. We need to learn to focus intently on the complete message being conveyed behind and between the words our partners use.
Throttling back the Alpha…
As a man, you will be expected to lead the relationship in developing and fostering conditions within the relationship that allow these mutual vulnerabilities to surface, which leads to meaningful and deep connection to form. These vulnerabilities are areas of our psyche where we feel raw and unprotected. We all have them. They stem from emotional injuries of our childhood and the bruising we take on the road to and through adulthood, which have left emotional scars that we carry with us, unless attended to. We can attempt to attend to these emotional wounds by conducting psychological social development self-analysis and relationship autopsies for ourselves and with our partners, but like so many issues in life it is what we do consistently that has greater influence than what we attempt acutely. We need to make acceptance and mutual understanding a regular part of your relationship, as all wounds are not old wounds. We know and can come to expect that fresh ones will and do occur, often inadvertently by our own hand. A healthy relationship is one set up and prepared for them.
The initial goal of active listening is to set a comfortable tone, to allow time and opportunity for your partner to express their thoughts and sentiments, under your undivided attention. Recognizing these moments when they occur is crucial. Conveying that you recognize your partner’s need of this more so. Take the time to be in a position, atmosphere and situation where this can be realized. If you are not, create it. Pay attention to your frame of mind, as well as your body language. Be focused on the moment and operate from a place of sincere respect, care and understanding. The message being sent here is one of care, consideration and respect.
Active listening requires an open mind and as a leader, you cannot be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities, while being judgmental and single-minded. Withholding judgment creates an atmosphere of safety where your partner has the opportunity to authentically express themselves, which develops emotional intimacy and trust through respect. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but that you allow room for them to express their sentiments and you see, feel and acknowledge their perspective prior to forming and sharing your opinion.
Don’t assume that you initially understood your partner’s message. Paraphrase key points of understanding, intent and emotions before continuing. Don’t move the conversation forward until you do. Reflective listening is a way to indicate that you and your partner are on the same page within the discussion and that you understand not only what they are stating but the sentiments and intent driving them.
Don’t be shy to ask questions about any issue that is ambiguous or unclear. Asking open-ended, clarifying and probing questions are important devices to draw people out and encourage them to expand their ideas. The details of a message are often defined here, and as it is stated in so many cases, divinity resides in the details.
Restating that portion of the conversation again, as the conversation has proceeded, confirms and solidifies your understanding of the other person’s view and returns the conversation back to where it was prior to the reflection or clarification process. Ask them to do the same, so that you know they received your message regarding any clarification as well.
Actively listening is first about understanding your partner, then being understood. As you gain a clear comprehension of your partner’s perspective can you then introduce your ideas, feelings, sentiments or opinions and be well received.
Arguably the most important trait for a leader and a man is the ability to communicate effectively and in today’s knowledge economy this requires and demands a vastly heightened sense of emotional intelligence prior to doing so. It goes beyond mastering the craft of language, but attitude and actions of effective listening, that send powerful messages for forging collaboration, team building and consensus building within any relationship structure, none more critical and important than your intimate and romantic one, your life-partner.