by Kristin Kuiper, LMSW, MSW
When have you felt most understood by another person? What about this experience helped you feel this way? I’m hoping that you’ve experienced this lately because it can be a very valuable quality in our relationships.
In my line of work, I get to spend time with quite a few couples. And so often the focus of our work together turns to the importance of listening. Usually there are complaints in this area—either a partner not feeling heard or understood, or feeling disconnected and unknown by the other. So much of feeling understood and connected in our relationships can begin with working on our own abilities to truly listen to another person. Listening actually requires effort and it’s something that we can develop more with practice.
So many things can get in the way of being able to truly listen to another person—assumptions of the other person, memories, expectations, even distractions in our immediate surroundings! All of these things we call “filters” can get in the way. Sometimes, we are actually listening to our own thoughts more than we are listening to another in conversation. Maybe we want so badly to fix something for the other person that we lean on giving advice or providing too much reassurance or even, with good intentions, providing an abundance of solutions.
Next time your partner or someone important in your life seeks you out to share something that is on their mind or heart, pay attention to how you are providing this skill of listening. Be aware of what is getting in the way of you really understanding them, their feelings, their experiences. Challenge yourself to put these things aside and to give them what they are seeking—connection and understanding. I wonder how this will benefit your relationships…