Updated: Nov 10, 2022
About sixteen years into our marriage, I thought the quality of our communication was pretty good. As a matter of fact, I remember Renita and I completing a relationship satisfaction survey (like the one below) as part of a marriage enrichment course. I rated my overall satisfaction with our communication as an 8. Imagine my surprise when Renita rated her satisfaction with our communication as a 3! That was a wake-up call for me, and I was determined to find a way to turn things around.
One of the outcomes from that course is that we were able to develop a set of communication skills that we could practice and incorporate into our daily lives. In this week’s blog post, I’ll describe 5 effective listening skills, and next week, I’ll share 4 skills for effective speaking.
But now it is your turn.
Read the following statements and rate you level of communication satisfaction on a scale from 1 (Low) to 10 (High). Afterward, have your spouse/partner rate their level of satisfaction. Then, compare and discuss your responses.
We spend enough time communicating together as a couple.
We spend enough of our communication time talking about things relevant to our relationship and/or family versus superficial things.
We can express ourselves to each other freely and deeply without fear of ridicule or put downs.
My overall rating for us right now is:
After rating your responses, consider the following recommendations to enhance your effective listening skills.
HEARD is an acrostic that we came up with to help us to remember the 5 skills for effective listening. Each letter begins a word describing a useful listening behavior.
Halt - Stop what you are doing and give your undivided attention. The first step to becoming a good listener is to stop what you are doing and give the other person your undivided attention. This does not mean that your activity comes to a grinding halt. In practice, this looks like a temporary pause from what you are doing to acknowledge the person who is vying for your attention. If your task is pressing and you are not able to stop at that time. Ask the person to wait for just a moment so that you can reach a good stopping place and then give them your attention.
Eye – Maintain eye-to-eye contact during conversation. That does not mean that you must stare at the other person. It is meant to convey to the other person that what they have to say is important. Maintaining eye contact naturally follows the first practice of halting your activity.
For example, if you are watching TV or scrolling through your smartphone, stop scrolling, put your phone down, turn your attention to the other person, look them in the eye, and patiently listen to what they have to say.
Aware - Be aware of the speaker’s body language. Being aware of a person’s body language can tell you a lot about what they are trying to say. I recall hearing about a study that showed that 55% of a person’s message is communicated non-verbally, while tone of voice and spoken words accounted for 38% and 7% of their message, respectively. That means that 93% of the message is conveyed in your body language and the tone of your voice rather than the actual words you say.
Resist - Resist interrupting. James 1:19 (NCV) provides wonderful insight on how to put this listening skill into practice. It says, “My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily.” Resisting the urge to interrupt requires that you exercise patience and allow the person to express themselves. If ideas come to mind and you want to make sure that you don’t forget them, try jotting down one-to-five-word reminders to help jog your memory when it’s your turn to speak.
Do - offer feedback. Lastly, do offer feedback by restating, in your own words, what the other person said to you. This is known as paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is a skill that you will want to practice. You do not want to repeat the other person’s words verbatim because that can become annoying. On the other hand, restating the speaker’s message in your own words demonstrates that you are listening and trying to understand what they are saying. It also gives the speaker the opportunity to correct the existence of any misunderstanding.
When your spouse feels as if they have been heard and understood, they’re more likely to be receptive to listening to your perspective. The benefit of practicing these active listening skills is that they help to create a supportive environment for communication which also serves as a good first step in resolving conflict.
Read the following statements and rate your level of communication satition on a scale from 1 (Low) to 10 (High). Afterward, have your spouse/partner rate their level of satisfaction. Then, compare and discuss your responses.
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