One of the most important aspects of improving relationships is developing better listening skills. When we feel heard, valued and cared for we develop greater intimacy with others.
Here are four tips to become a better listener:
Listen Attentively: Too often we can spend more time coming up with our rebuttal than actually listening and empathizing with what someone else is saying. Let go of defending or arguing for a moment and focus on understanding and caring about the other person's experience.
Deepen Understanding: Allow yourself to be curious about the other person's experience, stepping inside their shoes for a moment, understanding things from their perspective. Ask questions that are honestly geared toward getting clarity, not sharing your perspective quite yet.
Express Empathy: Express with your words and non-verbal communication that you understand and care about the other person's experience. Making appropriate eye contact (based on cultural and relational norms for that person), and showing you care with your facial features, body posture, and space between you and the speaker, can go a long way to resolving conflict and developing greater intimacy.
Communicate Understanding: Now it's time to communicate what you believe you heard and understood from the other person to see if you got the main points. It's also a time to see if you understood what was most important to them. Use some of their words with a mixture of your own.