Want to improve your relationships with a single step? Effective listening is one of the best keys to accomplish this goal. There are simple ways to become a more effective listener, which will bless every single relationship you have.

What is Effective Listening?

There is a shortage of listening skills in our fast-paced culture. We are moving so fast that we don’t always take the time to listen to people, even the people who matter the most to us. But we can all learn to listen more effectively. This will help us show love to others and gain more from our relationships.

Effective listening is not only slowing down and paying more attention. It’s also asking certain questions while you are listening, in addition to putting your desire to respond on pause. Effective listening helps the other person feel loved and respected. It’s a good way to be more intentional in your relationships.

The Keys of Effective Listening

To become an effective listener, you need to be mindful of every conversation. Pay attention to both your verbal and nonverbal communication. By making tweaks to both types of communication, you’ll become a better listener.

If you are in the habit of interrupting, practice holding your tongue while the other person is speaking. Also, make up your mind that you will not respond without first thinking through what you are going to say. Pausing each time before responding will help you be more intentional in your communication.

As you are listening, pretend that you are transcribing the conversation. Get as many details as possible. The details will help you understand the speaker’s thoughts and feelings, including what they aren’t expressing to you verbally. The tone of voice and facial expressions will help you distinguish what the speaker is trying to communicate.

Good questions to ask yourself while listening include: “Did I hear everything correctly?” “Is there anything I need to be clarified?” “What do I need more information on?” These questions will help you fully understand the speaker’s point of view.

How Active Listening Works

You may have heard about active listening, which is an important part of effective listening. Active listening involves repeating back what the speaker said, to ensure clear understanding. This can be a regular exercise that benefits your relationships.

Let’s consider an example of active listening between a wife and husband. The wife wants her husband to help more around the house on the weekends. Here’s a peek at the conversation without active listening:

Wife: “I am tired of working on the house all weekend while you hang out with your friends.”

Husband: “That’s not true. I do help sometimes, and the weekend is the only time I can get together with my friends.”

Wife: “I’m not saying you never help. But I do need more help around here. I can’t do it all by myself. Why aren’t you willing to help?”

Husband: “I never said I’m unwilling to help! Can’t you give me a break?”

In this example, though the husband may be speaking the truth, his responses probably seemed defensive to his wife and escalated the tension.

This common response pattern doesn’t show any effort to listen to the other person’s point of view. However, when active listening is used, it will look something like this:

Wife: “I am tired of working on the house all weekend while you hang out with your friends.”

Husband: “Sounds like you are frustrated that I’m gone with my friends while you’re working on the house. Is that correct?”

Wife: “Yes, I am frustrated. I feel like I’m doing all the work. I know it’s important for you to have downtime, but I’d like you to help me out too.”

Husband: “So you feel like you’re doing all the work. Can you tell me more about this?”

Wife: “Some of the jobs I do would be easier for you to execute than me since you’re taller. I’d like to talk about splitting the chores up so we can have more fun on the weekends.”

Husband: “You would like more of my help with specific jobs around the house on the weekends. Did I get that right?”

Wife: “Yes, that’s right. If we would both work together, I wouldn’t mind so much that you spend time with your friends. And, it would free up time for us to have fun too.”

Husband: “What I hear you saying is that if we work together on the chores, we can both benefit from it. I can still spend time with my friends, but you won’t be as frustrated. And, we’ll have more time to enjoy together too. Did I miss anything?”

Wife: “No, you got it. Now, can we talk about dividing up the chores?”

In this example, the husband resists responding defensively and focuses on listening to his wife’s perspective. He affirms her feelings while keeping his own anxiety or anger to himself. Both arrive at a solution faster since the conflict was kept out of the conversation.

Now you can see the benefits of active listening. By affirming the other person’s feelings, reserving judgment, avoiding defensiveness, and asking for more information, you can improve your communication with others.

When Effective Listening is Needed

Effective listening is especially helpful in conflict resolution. But it is also helpful in the most basic conversations since it helps people feel appreciated and respected. Here are several examples of when effective listening will help you.

At home, effective listening is not only for married relationships. It’s a great way to get to know your children’s feelings and thoughts. You can help your child clarify his or her needs and wants with active listening. It will help your family feel more loved.

In your extended family, improved listening skills can increase healthy conversation between generations. If you want to show respect to your in-laws, siblings, and/or parents, take the high road and start practicing effective listening. You’ll see how a lack of defensiveness will help strengthen bonds between family members and open up new conversations.

At work, effective listening can help you understand what your boss needs from you. It can also help you handle various situations with coworkers and clients. Effective listening requires patience and persistence, and with practice, it can improve your work relationships.

In other situations, better listening skills will help you reap benefits. For example, becoming a better listener will help you in customer service situations where you may have experienced frustration in the past. It can help you be a better friend, small group member, or committee member. Better listening can help you in many church settings too.

Any situation when you need greater understanding is a situation that will benefit from effective listening skills. They are indispensable ways to show the love of Christ to everyone around you.

Improving Your Listening Skills

No one develops good listening skills overnight. They must be practiced and perfected over time. It’s natural for us to respond with defensiveness and offer our own opinions without thinking about how they will come across. You can improve your listening skills even faster with objective help.

A caring Christian counselor at Seattle Christian Counseling can help you develop effective listening skills. We all have blind spots in our communication abilities, and your counselor will help you see areas where you can improve.

In counseling sessions, you can learn how to listen well through role-playing exercises. This will help you gain confidence before dealing with conflict resolution in your relationships. If you have any other relationship problems, we can address them with you in counseling sessions as well.

To learn how to be a better listener, give us a call at Simi Valley Christian Counseling today. We will help you gain more skills for listening, conflict resolution, and relationship building. Get started on a path of personal growth with us today.

“Talking Shop”, Courtesy of Joshua Rodriquez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking Through Town”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “A Stroll With Mom”, Courtesy of Leon Seibert, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Courtesy of Tim Foster, Unsplash.com, CC0 License