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  • What Is Active Listening?

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    What Is Active Listening?

    Active listening is paying attention on purpose to what your partner is saying. It’s dropping your inner-rebuttal and response to just listen, and then convey back the essence of what you heard without your editorial.

    So, it’s listening and then conveying that you heard your partner.

    I often have couples practice this in my office. 

    What I mean by “without your editorial” is that sometimes we may convey back what our partner said as being silly or with the vibe of, “why would you think that?” 

    Doing this can be discouraging for your partner and they may avoid bringing things up in the future.

    Active listening is essentially providing space and validation for your partner, and you can do this even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying. 

    If there’s something you don’t agree with, convey curiosity not a rebuttal. The essence of a rebuttal usually is: “That’s not true and I’m right!” 

    Curiosity is: “I’m curious why you think that?”

    I got this adage from Terry Real and I totally agree with it: The relational answer to who’s right and who’s wrong is, “Who cares what can we do to fix this?”

    So, what do we do when our partner is speaking?

    Listen mindfully. 

    That means stopping your thinking when your partner is talking. Be aware of their tone, emotion, feeling, and body movement. 

    It’s giving your full attention, and you may notice something you haven’t in a while. If you notice you’re thinking about something else, simply come back to the present moment and listen. It’s an ongoing practice.

    How is this different from “normal” listening?

    Active listening is not just waiting to respond. 

    It’s acknowledging what your partner said and this provides the opportunity for your partner to “feel felt.” 

    Active listening provides an opportunity for a dialogue and not just two monologues. Next time you hear two people speaking in public, see if it’s a dialogue or two monologues. The results of this experiment may be interesting!

    So, to be an active listener, listen mindfully and then when your partner is done, say something like, “So what I hear you saying is…”

    The spirit of active listening is being a customer service representative.

    For example, if I go to Best Buy and I say, “Hey my computer is broken.” 

    And the representative says, “Oh, your computer is broken… my car has been in the shop for weeks…”

    First, I came to the representative for my issue. If he hears me out on what’s wrong with my computer and conveys that he understands what’s wrong with it, then the chances of me being interested in his car increases.

    One at a time…

    Active listening is one of the hardest things to do. 

    What can help your partner be an active listener, is working on being a concise speaker. 

    If we really practice this, you two will feel felt and be heard!  

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