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Deep listening your way to a happier relationship

Why is good communication so hard?
/ Source: TODAY

It happens all the time. You’re discussing a problem with your partner and he keeps interrupting you to provide solutions. While you appreciate his insight, you really just want to be heard. You know you’re guilty of this, too. Why is good communication so hard?

Couple holding hands
A key to improving your relationship is improving your listening skills.Elena Elisseeva

Maybe it’s time for you and your partner to cultivate the habit of deep listening.

You both may think your listening skills are already top-notch, but deep listening is different. It’s requires more than being able to repeat back what the other person says. It’s more than showing you understand what they’ve said. Deep listening requires close listening and reflection, but with the idea that the listener supports the speaker.

When the listener does speak, he or she is trying to help the speaker get to a greater self-understanding, without judgment or criticism.

“[With] deep listening … there is more emphasis on empathic listening,” says David Rome, author of “Your Body Knows the Answer: Using Your Felt Sense to Solve Problems, Effect Change, and Liberate Creativity.”

“When you are listening you don’t really have an agenda and you really take in what the other person is expressing.”

To be a better, more empathic deep listener, you have to start with yourself.

“Self-empathy is important,” he says. “We all have that critical voice. Again, you have to get a little distance and just have self-empathy and be able to be friendly to yourself.”

Rome says cultivating self-empathy is a necessary to step to sharpen empathy for others. People in touch with their own feelings can often better understand what the other person is saying and support them in an authentic way, he says.

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While practicing deep listening, Rome recommends that people don’t think of the conversation as a chance for each to fight for one’s opinions.

“Instead of a contest of different points of view, the listener is trying to understand,” he says. “One of the things I encourage people to do is—if they have a difficult topic between partners—just agree to take turns. Say as much as each needs … to feel finished.”