Active Listening: How It Changed My Life

I’m happy now. I’ve actually not felt as happy as I do at this moment during any other point in my life. I feel secure and confident in my position in life and I have a wonderful human being to accompany  me along this journey. Of course, things have not always been as great as they are now.  At one point, Alfred And I decided to see a relationship counselor because we simply could not figure out how to make things better. We could tell we were headed on a downward spiral and we weren’t ready to give up and call it quits.

Our counselor taught us a method of communication which she calls active listening and it has, honestly, changed our life. The general premise is as follows…

When Alfred is upset and trying to express himself to me, he is basically seeking out empathy. He just wants to make me understand and wants to feel understood. The way I can ensure he feels empathy and understood is to actively listen. This means to let him say his piece. Every so often he is bound to take a break and then it is my responsibility to summarize what he just said to me then ask him if there is anything else he needs to say. At no point should I interject my opinion, give advice, or express my emotions. In this situation it is about how my partner feels and nothing else. 

It would go something like this:

Alfred: When you do X, it drives me nuts. I just don’t feel like what I want is taken into consideration. 

Me: So what you are saying is that when I do X, you feel disregarded.

Alfred: Yes and…

Me: So it also causes___…Is there anything else?

And so on.

This continues until your partner doesn’t have anything else to say. Then you have the opportunity to say how you feel and the expectation is that they will offer you the same courtesy. It seems silly at first…even ridiculous but it works. I know there have been many times when one or the other of us is upset. We continue to practice this communication skill and our disagreements no longer blow out of proportion.

I, personally, have also applied this concept to the way I deal with everyone in my life. I’ve noticed that people are more willing to talk to me. Friends have expressed hat they’ve noticed a change in me and they like being around me more. Over time with tons of effort, I’ve become a much better listener and it’s changed my life. 

Give it a try. It takes a bit to feel natural but it definitely helps us avoid unnecessary blow-outs. 

J Harvey

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