The Secrets of Communication: How to Be A Better Listener

We try to be our best. We mean well, and when our efforts are misconstrued we feel like there’s nothing we can do. But there’s good news: recognizing the ways that we can grow in no way means that we’re not well intentioned and doing our best! This is one of the greatest keys to communication. Understanding that we’re well intentioned, but we always have room to learn from the other person and grow in ourselves and our relationships with others.

In order to learn from another person and learn to grow in relationship with them, it’s crucial that we learn to listen effectively.

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Research published in the Harvard Business Review describes that the typical ways we think we’re being good listeners—such as being silent, periodically nodding or acknowledging the other person, or even repeating what the other has said—aren’t as effective as we may think.

Here are a few ways to become a more effective listener:

Ask questions—while sitting in silence allows the other person to talk, it doesn’t always communicate that they’re being heard. Asking questions shows both interest and comprehension in what the other person is discussing. Likewise this allows for the dynamic of listening to understand rather than listening simply to respond.

Be a cooperative partner—research indicates that the most successful conversations are those where the individuals view one another as partners, meaning neither person gets defensive about comments made by the other. When we are partners in a conversation, we work together, we care for one another, and we are certain that our responses are solution focused (rather than derogatory, competitive, or distracting from the topic at hand).

Offer reflections—A good listener keeps the conversation going by gently offering reflections that open up new lines of inquiry. Complaints often occur when someone feels as though the other just “jumped in and try to solve the problem.” Good listening, however, requires that the suggestions/solutions are not the end of the conversation, they are a support to the conversation.

To learn more tips and techniques for effective communication, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip of the Day, Wed. 3/8–Cultivate a Spirit of Understanding

Couples need to make a million decisions every day.  Most decisions can be made fairly easily, but some decisions require more thought and reflection, especially when husbands and wives don’t see eye-to-eye.  In those times, it can be easy to try to push through the disagreement, to force a conclusion before you really understand where each other is coming from.  But decisions made this way rarely work.  When one spouse feels shut down, it tends to cultivate resentment at best or causes that spouse to undermine the solution at worst, creating a spirit of mutual hostility and distrust.

Today, cultivate a spirit of understanding.  Go out of your way to communicate that your spouse is more important than your agenda.  Before you push your plan or try to press for a decision, take the time to ask questions that help you really understand where your spouse is coming from.  Don’t criticize what they say.  Don’t try to talk them out of it.  Ask questions to help you truly understand what your mate wants and why.  Then, and only then, can you ask your mate to help you think of ways you could address their concerns while considering yours as well.  Chances are, your generosity and commitment to understanding will be rewarded in kind.

Here’s a great reflection by theologian, Romano Guardini, on the virtue of understanding

——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.