Have you ever tried speaking to a child while they are watching their favorite
cartoon? You know how challenging it can be to get their attention. The problem is that
they are distracted and the same thing happens to adults. Even though we might not be
distracted by cartoons, there’s so much proverbial noise surrounding us making it hard
Physical distractions like technology can be easier to turn off or mute. However,
internal distractions aren’t always easy to tune out. Maybe you are preoccupied with
something that happened at work earlier in the day or that inconsiderate driver that cut you off
on the way home. Whatever the distraction, when your partner needs your attention, it is crucial
to put the internal distraction to the side to focus on what your partner is saying.
If you cannot set aside that mental distraction, let your partner know they are important
to you and would like to give them the attention they deserve. Then ask if you can have the
discussion at a time when you can actively listen. Remember, active listening is a skill and will
require some effort to improve your active listening skills.
Active listening can prevent many conflicts in a relationship from taking root and
has many benefits. Active listening can demonstrate that you care, build empathy, and trust
in a relationship. Part of active listening is asking questions. Asking questions validates
the other person and confirms you are listening, which leads to a deeper understanding
of your partner’s point of view.
Helpful Tips for Active Listening
• Do not interrupt! You are not actively listening if you are talking. Let your partner
express their feelings.
• Remove potential external distractions.
• Make eye contact while the other person is speaking.
• Be mindful of your body language. Crossing your arms may give the impression you
are not listening.
• Do not change the subject. Changing the subject will make your partner feel like you
• Paraphrase and ask questions at appropriate times.
• Get out of your head! Be present in the moment. Don’t judge and assume you know
what your partner is going to say before they say it.
Don’t Just Hear- - Listen
We all have something to say, and everyone wants to be heard. Remember that
active listening careful listening and observation that can lead to more productive and
rewarding conversations with those who matter most in your life.