How does listening help strengthen relationships?

Tara Fields, PhD, LMT
Marriage & Family Therapy
To listen means “to hear with understanding.” You listen not just with your ears, but with your heart and your whole being. Listening isn’t just hearing the words that fall out of your partner’s mouth and parroting those words back; it’s giving the other person the sense that you really get it. Really getting it translates into really getting me. When you don’t get it, it’s the responsibility of your partner to say, “No, you didn’t hear me,” and to try again. You’ll know when you’ve heard your partner, because you’ll be affected by what he or she said. And your partner will know by your body language that you heard. So often it isn’t about the words you say in response. Your partner can feel when you get what he or she is communicating. Experience with girlfriends and patients has shown me that most women have built-in BS monitors, which alert them when things are off. The words they hear might be accurate, but they can sense when the intention or understanding is not there.

The best way to listen is to break the conversation into small chunks. At first, it can be really hard for the other person to refrain from saying all the things he or she feels the need to say at once, so make sure you both know that you’ll get your chance to talk. Give each other five minutes to talk and then reverse roles. Then take each five-minute statement bit by bit, checking in often to make sure your partner is really hearing what you’re saying or that your partner feels that he or she is being heard and understood.

Sometimes just this experience of opening your heart to your partner’s message can resolve the conflict loop that has kept you trapped for so long. When a couple comes to see me, and one of the partners says, “I don’t get it. I have listened and listened and said I am sorry for months, years, but she just won’t drop it!” my response is often the same: “Set an intention to listen with your heart and your whole being so that your partner feels heard and understood.”
Dr. Stan Tatkin, MFT, PsyD
Marriage & Family Therapy
It’s not just listening, it’s paying attention. Attention and presence is what not only strengthens relationships but also is what allows us to feel in love and loving. Partners who do not pay attention to one another’s facial expressions, eyes, voice, and other signals will not only make more errors in attunement but will also lose a sense of novelty and freshness with their partner. It’s all in the eyes and it’s not just about listening but it is about paying close attention to each other and being responsive with what you see and hear.
Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship

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Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship

"What the heck is my partner thinking?" is a common refrain in romantic relationships, and with good reason. Every person is wired for love differently, with different habits, needs, and reactions to conflict. The good news is that most people's minds work in predictable ways and respond well to security, attachment, and rituals, making it possible to actually neurologically prime the brain for greater love and fewer conflicts. Wired for Love is a complete insider’s guide to understanding your partner’s brain and enjoying a romantic relationship built on love and trust. Synthesizing research findings on how and why love lasts drawn from neuroscience, attachment theory, and emotion regulation, this book presents ten guiding principles that can improve any relationship. Strengthen your relationship by: Creating and maintaining a safe “couple bubble” Using morning and evening rituals to stay connected Learning to fight so that nobody loses Becoming the expert on what makes your partner feel loved By learning to use simple gestures and words, readers can learn to put out emotional fires and help their partners feel more safe and secure. The no-fault view of conflict in this book encourages readers to move past a "warring brain" mentality and toward a more cooperative "loving brain" understanding of the relationship. This book is essential reading for couples and others interested in understanding the complex dynamics at work behind love and trust in intimate relationships. While there’s no doubt that love is an inexact science, if you can discover how you and your partner are wired differently, you can overcome your differences to create a lasting intimate connection.
Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

We often experience obstacles in our relationships because of a difference of opinion, different backgrounds, or different natures. These disparities can often seem like an enormous chasm between ourselves and others. Indeed, there are people who have even marketed messages about how large these differences are between men and women in particular.

What is very important to keep in mind, though, is that there are reasons why each person says certain words, does certain actions, and thinks certain thoughts. The behaviors that are imbalanced or even hurtful are likely coming from a source of pain within themselves. 

What does this mean for our interactions with them? When we listen more, we become more familiar not just with what they're saying, doing, or thinking, but why. Someone may have said something hurtful to us, but it also might be at the end of an incredibly stressful day. If we listen more, we will learn why they are experiencing the imbalances that they are and then have a greater capacity to feel compassion toward them. And when we feel compassion rather than a need to retaliate, the connection will be based more on love than a less appealing emotion. This will strengthen the relationship as a result.

Karyn Hall

Listening communicates to the others that you value them and that their emotions and thoughts are important to you. Listening is a nonverbal way of showing you care. Listening to others is a way of showing acceptance and respect as well.

No matter how well we know someone, we cannot know all their thoughts or reactions. Listening is a way of learning more about others and their experiences. Sharing their experiences strengthens the relationships you have with them.

When you listen to others, your choices, statements and actions will reflect your greater understanding of who they are and their preferences. They will feel cherished. 

Dr. Kathleen Hall
Preventive Medicine
You give your loved ones a precious gift when you allow them to speak without spoiling their words with your own. Listening is the ultimate experience of relationship, a sacred entry into communion with another. When two connect to become one, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.