In this article, we’ll talk about active listening and how to use it as a tool to release stress and distress and get in touch with our resilience, resourcefulness, and creativity to make us more effective.

As individual clients dig into their emotional basement, I try to get them to connect outside of themselves as well. One tool that helps begin the thread of communication between partners is called Active Listening. Active listening asks couples to set aside time to truly listen and actually hear each other, one at a time.

Why Try Active Listening

I often suggest that couples have active listening “sessions”. These “sessions” provide a safe space for both parties to talk about their thoughts, feelings, frustrations, fears, and doubts. In this safe space, couples can share whatever is on their minds without concern about repercussions.

In these “sessions”

  1. Each person is given a chance to listen and to speak.
  2. The listener does not judge, try to fix or defend themselves.
  3. The listener appreciates and listens to each word, idea, thought, and feeling expressed.
  4. As the talking and listening occur, the speaker can experience a peak and release of the feelings and then a letting go of upsets, distress, or resentments.
  5. Take Turns!

RELATED: 9 Signs and Symptoms of an Unhappy Relationship

These active listening sessions work best when you set a time. Start slow. Try it for ten minutes and then gradually, with practice, extend it to thirty minutes. If you can learn to tolerate your feelings about your partner’s thoughts and feelings, you can hold a magnificent space for personal and relationship transformation.

How To Practice Active Listening

1. Be in the right frame of mind. Decide who will be the speaker and who will be the active listener. As the listener, give your undivided attention. Maintain good eye contact and align your body so that you are facing your partner.

2. Make it clear that you are in an active listening “session”. Remember that whatever is said “in session” stays in the session (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). For the record, what is expressed in the session cannot be used against you or brought up without your permission outside of the session context.

3. Set the timer.

4. The speaker starts talking and makes it a point to keep it short so the listener can take it all in.

5. The listener acknowledges that the message was heard with verbal comments like, “What I hear you saying is . . .”  After the speaker has finished talking, the listener asks, “Is that correct?” 

6. The speaker indicates “Yes” or “No”, and if the listener missed something or did not hear the speaker’s meaning accurately, then the speaker repeats the information. The listener then repeats the corrected information.

7. The listener then asks, “Is there anything more you’d like to add?”

The point is to stick to the precise information the speaker is sharing without adding your own interpretations, attempts to influence, fix, or otherwise embellish what your partner is actually saying. Keep it simple. Sticking to the script creates a safe space to communicate within the exercise and interrupts the usual habits of conversation.

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