Black Belt Listening

Source: j.k.Califf/flickr

Linda: Happy couples are skilled in the art of attentive listening. They allow themselves to be penetrated by each other’s words and feelings. They don’t simply receive the information, but are informed by it, and frequently change their behavior accordingly. When one partner expresses discomfort in response to the other partner’s request for more closeness, a simple remedy for bridging the distance between them is to institute periods of committed listening. It can make all the difference.

When a partner is able to patiently accept the other’s feelings, opinions, and desires, and is able to override his (or her) own impulse to be in the spotlight, the relationship will thrive. His willingness to show up to honor his partner’s needs deepens the level of trust and respect that they hold for each other. As trust grows, there is a willingness to reveal even the most tender emotions. Here are some practical tips for becoming a black belt listener:

  1. Remember that listening is love.
  2. Make up your mind that rather than trying to get your partner to listen to you, you are committed to listening more attentively to her.
  3. Having agreed upon designated times to discuss important subjects is always a good idea. Spontaneous discussions can always be added.
  4. Don’t allow other people (children, the dog, telephone, etc.) to interrupt the flow of the conversation.
  5. The quieter you become the more you can hear. Being fully present with no distractions reassures your partner that you care. When you stop everything you are doing, to be as quiet and still as you can to give her your full attention, the results start to roll in. You must be present to win.
  6. Turn off any tech devices (lap-top computer, cell phone, tablet, and TV) and keep them off during the conversation.
  7. Body language, such as fully facing her and periodically leaning in towards your partner, shows your interest.
  8. Practice patience even when she may not be getting to the point as quickly as you may want her to.
  9. By restraining yourself from interrupting, the speaker feels your respect.
  10. Being genuinely curious to know your partner more deeply is likely to draw her out to communicate more with you.
  11. Ask clarifying questions designed to prompt the speaker to go deeper into his or her experience. One effective prompt is to say, “Tell me more.”
  12. Resist the temptation to jump to conclusions.
  13. Remember that completing her sentence is invasive and intrusive, and is not respectful.
  14. A few sincere and well-placed words, such as “yes, un-huh, really, I see, that makes sense, and wow” show your involvement and interest.
  15. Periodically paraphrasing in your own words, what you are hearing shows you are right with her understanding her communication. You also get a chance to have any misunderstandings corrected.
  16. You may feel tempted to offer advice but it is much more powerful if you ask the kind of questions that will allow your partner to draw her own conclusions.
  17. If you notice that you are feeling bored, rather than stopping the conversation or changing the subject, see if your questions can take the conversation to a deeper, more-feeling level to have an interchange with heart and meaning.
  18. Congratulate yourself as you become a better listener and enjoy the trust that your attentive listening is building.
  19. Showing love by what we do and say is only one way to do it. Sometimes we show love by what we don’t do and say. Being quiet to show our care with committed listening may be just the method to take the well-being of the relationship to a higher level.
  20. Sincerely thank your partner for her willingness to share her feelings, thoughts, and life with you.

And remember to enjoy the process.


Check out our books:

101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married
Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love
Happily Ever After…and 39 Myths about Love


“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” —Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate.

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