To 'See' Your Partner, All You Have To Do Is 'Listen.'
Feeling truly heard by your partner is one of the greatest tools for deepening connection…yet all too often, our communication with our partner suffers because we forget to also listen.
Since communication requires give and take on both sides (and sometimes forces us to wait patiently to share our opinions), the next time your partner is sharing something with you, try to simply listen. Don’t correct, fix, assume, problem-solve, reflect, doubt, challenge, or question. Just be present, let their words soak in. Don’t think about what your partner just said, but why they said it. For example: Have they mentioned the issue before? (If yes, pay attention: it’s probably important to them.) How many times do we assume something is inconsequential simply because we don’t give it enough attention? Our worlds are fast and we're constantly stimulated...quickly on to our next task, having lost much of our ability to regulate the pace of our own time. Multiply that by two for a couple, and you have to make double sure you’re deliberately creating the space to learn about each other.
Here are some easy tools that can show anyone (but especially your partner!) that you’re paying attention.
YOUR BODY IS A WONDERLAND: USE IT TO BE A BETTER LISTENER
I learned this one long ago in my ### days/training, and time and again it works simply by physically adjusting your body language to demonstrate you're focused on nothing but the person in front of you.
It’s a simple, two-part tool:
1) Put down whatever's in your hand—phone, book, newspaper, child—stop what're doing, and make eye contact.
2) Still your body, and angle yourself toward them…silently letting them know that you are focused on them 100 percent.
Experts say that 53 percent of communication is based off our body language, so it makes sense that a few small adjustments to your posture and physicality can instantly raise the appearance of your interest level. Because if you're multi-tasking or distracted, you'll give off a very clear signal that they’re not the most important thing to you in that moment.
Mirror, Mirror, Standing Right In Front Of You
Mirroring is something you can practice without anyone even noticing…simply by reflecting your partner’s physical state.
When two people in a conversation match each other’s tone and body language, the connection deepens. For example, if you are both sitting at a table and one person is leaning in, and one person is leaning out, we are unconsciously projecting our emotions through our bodies. The leaner-inner implies that they're more invested in the discussion, while the leaner-outer is putting distance between them and the topic. Imagine the energy shift if they both leaned in and “mirrored” each other’s motion. We may not consciously notice, but we sure unconsciously pick up on it.
So let’s put all this into practice, shall we? Imagine...
SCENARIO 1:You're flipping through Insta (hopefully reading the latest @Cohabimates post), and your love comes up to you and says: “Babe, can I ask a question?” You acknowledge them, but don’t put your phone down, and instead, you keep casually scrolling through your feed as they begin to speak. Would they feel like they have your full attention?
SCENARIO 2:Same question-asking takes place…and instead of continuing with your phone, you deliberately stop what you're doing, put your phone out of view, turn to face your love, and you give them your full attention. Now how do you think you’ve made your partner feel?I’m guessing the first choice may start a fight; but the second might get you laid. 😉
It’s Not You It’s Me: The Timing Game
And what if a heavy topic comes up and it’s just not the right time to tackle it? Maybe they have something important to tell you, but they haven’t read your vibe right and you simply can’t give them the focus that they deserve. Your only authentic play here is to tell them. Tell them. Use thoughtful words that will help them understand that you are deeply interested in hearing what they have to say, but that you simply can’t give them the attention they deserve at the moment. Then, pick a specific follow up date/time to continue the conversation when you can commit to it.
What’s tantamount here is making sure they know you're interested in hearing more. Reassure them. And remember that it takes courage to be vulnerable and open, so the last thing you want is for them to unconsciously (or consciously) pull back or second-guess themselves the next time they want to share something important.
Takeway: Amazing epiphanies can occur amid the smallest of hints. Imagine what you can learn by simply becoming an expert listener.