Active listening is a process in which the listener tries to fully understand what the speaker is saying, not only at a literal level but also at a psychological level.
Active listening is essential to effective communication in relationships. Especially when it comes to talking about money and creating financial intimacy.
When someone is actively listening, the listener pays attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication and tries to get an accurate understanding of the speaker's message.
Active listening is an important tool in improving relationships as it encourages you to not just speak, but become a great listener.
Read on to find out 9 ways to improve your communication skills and become a more active listener.
Listening is a lot more than paying attention to the words a person is saying, it also includes listening to the speaker's body language.
When listening to others be sure to acknowledge the message that they're trying to convey. Don't be distracted by other things like the television or a noisy room. Turn off your cell phone and have your talk in private so that you can give whoever is speaking your undivided attention.
Show That You're Listening
Use facial expressions and body language to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Nod your head or lean forward to show that you are interested and engaged in what the speaker is saying.
Making eye contact and nodding occasionally also helps show that you're involved in the conversation.
Sometimes all it takes to show that you're listening is to make small sounds or comments like "uh-huh" or "I see" when a person has made a point.
You can also try to actively engage the person in conversation by asking questions or making comments. This shows that you're interested in what they have to say.
If you're not sure what to say, you can always repeat back what the person has said. This shows that you were paying attention and allows you to buy time to think of a response to what they're saying.
Being fully present and showing that you're interested in what your partner is saying is one of the first steps to building financial intimacy.
When you're the listener, don't assume that you understand correctly. Paraphrase or repeat back to the speaker what you think you have heard them say.
For example, if you were speaking to your partner about their views on saving, you might say something like: "You said that you feel like you've tried everything to get us to increase our savings, but you're just not feeling like the message is getting across. Is that right?"
This will help to ensure that you have understood the message correctly, and it will also encourage the speaker to keep talking.
If you're not sure you understand what the speaker is saying, or if you want to know more about their experience, ask questions.
For example, you might say: "Can you tell me more about what you meant when you said X?" or "What was it like for you when Y happened?"
Avoid yes or no questions. They are usually dead ends. Ask open-ended questions instead. This will allow the speaker to take the topic in the direction that it needs to go.
Clarify if necessary. Don't be too focused on insignificant details. And don't be shy to ask questions.
Questions help partners clarify what the other person means. One of the most important things when it comes to communication is to not make assumptions.
Examples include: What do you feel about …?”, “What do you think about …?,” and “Can you tell me more about …?”.
When you clarify how your partner thinks and feels you're respecting them as a unique individual and honoring and empathizing with their worldview.
Active listening involves asking questions, rather than making assumptions. It invites thoughtful responses and maintains a collaborative spirit. You might ask: What are some of your thoughts?”, ‘Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Restating key themes as the discussion progresses reinforces both parties' grasp of each other's points of view.
At the end of the conversation, summarize what you think the speaker has told you. This will help to ensure that you have understood them correctly, and it will also give them a chance to correct you if you've misunderstood anything.
It also enables both parties to be clear about mutual responsibilities and follow-ups.
Briefly summarizing what you've understood while actively listening helps both parties be sure of each other's points.
For example, you might say: "So, from what you've told me, it sounds like you're feeling X about Y. Is that right?".
Then create clear expectations of what the next steps are such as "So it sounds as though we both need time to think and then we'll return to this discussion on X date. Do you agree?"
Focus on what the other person is saying, not just on what you want to say
When most people communicate they end up spending most of their time focused on what they want to say next instead of being fully present and focused on what the other person is saying.
When you put your whole focus on what the other person is saying you help to increase empathy and understanding.
Don’t start thinking about what you want to say while they are speaking. Wait until they have finished speaking before you respond.
In a study published in the journal Science, researchers found that people who were not looking at each other but who were trying to have a conversation made more eye contact and showed more facial expressions when they thought their partner was mimicking them.
The findings suggest that we mirror each other's expressions automatically, and that this unconscious mimicry helps us to understand and empathize with others.
Furthermore, when you mirror another person's posture or expressions it helps the speaker feel as though you understand them more.
However, be careful. Automatic mirroring of facial expressions is a sign of attentive listening. But attempting to consciously mimic facial expressions can be a sign of distraction.
So the next time you're in a conversation, pay attention to your own facial expressions and see if you can catch yourself mirroring your partner. It might just help you to be a better listener.
When we make eye contact with someone, it helps create a connection between us. It can make the other person feel more comfortable and trusting of us. Additionally, making eye contact while speaking can make us appear more interested and connected to what the other person is saying.
Looking away from the person you're speaking to can make you appear disinterested, so it's important to find a balance, even if you find constant eye contact uncomfortable.
Try to make eye contact with whom you're speaking as this will make you seem more interested and connected to what they're saying. It can also help build trust and rapport.
Active listening is a skill that can be learned and developed with practice. In my course, The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy the first module is focused entirely on developing communication skills so that you and your partner can avoid unnecessary conflict and get on the same page easily.
This blog only scratches the surface of the skills that make great couples excellent communicators. Be sure to check out the course if you're desiring more intimacy in your relationship and to minimize money conflict and finally feel on the same page as a team with your finances.
By making a conscious effort to pay attention, reflect on what is being said, and ask questions, you can improve your ability to communicate with others.
If you'd like to read more about communication, be sure to read our article on 4 Steps To Become A Great Communicator.