Are You Listening?

March 24th, 2011

I have learned to not open up to my husband if it’s during a BYU basketball game. If I need to tell him something important, then it’s best to wait until after the game so that I know I have his full attention. Even if I just need him to listen, his focus is more on Jimmer than on my upcoming midterms.

We hear a lot about how communication is essential to a relationship. But good communication starts with listening. In the book, “Marriage & Families: Intimacy, Diversity and Strengths,” by David H. Olson and John DeFrain, they said, “If one communication skill could be considered a foundation for intimacy, it would be listening.”

Now don’t get me wrong; my husband is a very good listener aside from during basketball games. He tries to focus on what I’m saying and is patient while I discuss my thoughts. I also try to do the same for him. I know that this has helped our relationship greatly as we try to understand each other and give emotional support when needed.

Listening is essential to connect with other people and to develop genuine emotional intimacy.

Olson and DeFrain say in their book that listening is about withholding judgment and trying to understand the other person. However, it is not always easy to withhold judgment while you are listening to another.  Sometimes once we hear something we disagree with, it is common to stop listening and start constructing our eloquent rebuttal in our heads. But when we are judgmental of what another person is saying we invalidate their feelings.

There have been times where I have expressed thoughts to my husband that are probably really dumb and petty. Yet if he told me I was being dumb and petty, that would shut me off right there and could hurt our relationship (obviously, right?). But instead he tries to keep an open-mind and creates a comfortable, emotional environment.

I know that through listening, relationships can become stronger. When my husband is listening to me, I gain more confidence and trust in our relationship. We are more connected and supported by each other when we take the time to listen to one another.

How good of a listener are you?

I know we all have room for improvement. To help you get started with how you can improve your listening skills, I found this quiz online by McGraw-Hill where you can assess your strengths and weakness of how you listen. At the end of the quiz, it will give you a score and areas that you can work on to help improve your communication skills.

Take it and tell us what you have learned about yourself!