Relationships are hard. Whether it be a friendship, a working relationship, a dating relationship, a marriage, or a relationship with a family member, a thriving relationship takes a lot of work. Those of you who have been in long term relationships or are parents of adult or teen children probably know this full well. In this article I will discuss some basics to reflective listening, and how simply learning to apply these skills can revive any relationship. Let’s first imagine that two people are playing a game of catch, in order to play the game “well” each person must actually catch the ball and then throw it back. Imagine that your conversations with people around you is like this game of catch. You must “catch” the idea, thought, or emotion that the person you’re speaking with is trying to tell you. To ensure that you have really caught what the person is talking about you can reflect it back to them by explaining exactly what you heard. Then you can respond to them, which would be throwing the ball back. As you learn to really hear and understand what the person is saying, then you will start to understand them, what makes them who they are. Feeling understood and heard is very central to a relationship. We have all been in relationships where we feel that our emotions and our thoughts are not important, and that feeling usually leads to a broken relationship. Fix your relationship by first leading the way in listening. As you learn to listen and reflect, those around you may begin to follow in your footsteps.
It is important to understand that when people talk, they are usually trying to express an emotion. Deciphering the emotion that a person is trying to communicate can be confusing and very difficult, but the process can be easier if you are reflecting back to the person to truly understand them. Each of us are driven by our emotions, which determine our thoughts and ultimately affect our decisions. Each of us also desire our emotional needs to be met, a very common way for this to happen is through communication. That’s why people feel so good, revived, or motivated after having lunch with a great friend, or having a heart-to-heart talk with their partner, or having a deep session with a counselor. Sometimes it is helpful to have a neutral third , such as a relationship therapist who is an expert in the field, to help guide this type of interaction The emotional need of being heard and understood is met and it feels good to have our needs met.
As simple as it sounds, learning to listen is not an easy task. People are “me” focused. Learning to take the time to care and hear someone out may be harder than you think. Don’t give up after one or two failed attempts, give yourself grace as you learn a new skill and a new pattern of thinking about conversation. Communication is the key to every relationship, it’s the determining factor of a strong or weak relationship, and your communication is in your power.