How to be a better listener in a relationship : Genuine Advice - Lovedit : Relationship App

How to be a better listener in a relationship : Genuine Advice

How to be a better listener in a relationship

In today's fast and digital world, effective communication has become more important than ever. One extremely important aspect of communication is listening. Knowing how to be a better listener in a relationship can greatly add/give to building healthy and strong relationships, both personally and professionally. However, many of us struggle with being defensive and find it very hard to truly listen to others. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind Defensiveness, and its damaging effects on relationships, and provide practical tips on how to be a better listener in a relationship.

How to be a better listener in a relationship
How to be a better listener in a relationship


Defensiveness (the tendency to react too strongly to criticism) is a natural reaction that comes up when we feel threatened or attacked. It is a response rooted in our upbringing and the models of behavior we saw while growing up. For example, people who grew up in strict families or experienced harsh criticism for their mistakes may develop defensive behavior to protect themselves. Defensiveness can also stem from a fear of being seen as wrong or being judged by others.

The problem with Defensiveness, as described by mental health expert Dr. Harriet Lerner, is that it interferes with our ability to listen effectively. Defensiveness and listening cannot live together because when we are busy defending ourselves. we are not truly hearing and understanding the other person's perspective (way of seeing things / sensible view of what is and is not important). This blocks emotional closeness and prevents a meaningful connection from forming.

To illustrate the harmful effects of Defensiveness on relationships, let's turn to the findings of famous relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. Over forty years of a huge amount of research, Dr. Gottman identified four patterns of behavior, known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the terrifying end of the world, that lead to relationship breakdown. Defensiveness is one of these four behaviors, along with criticism, hatred, and blocking other people from learning something. When Defensiveness is present in a relationship, it often creates a cycle of attack, defense, and further criticism, leading to anger /resentment over being mistreated and the wearing away of trust.

It is extremely important to understand our Defensiveness and work towards overcoming it to build healthier relationships. Here are some practical tips on

How to be a better listener in a relationship and let go of Defensiveness:

1. Reflect on past angry feelings over being mistreated: Take the time to examine whether you are harboring holding shelter to any anger over being mistreated or unresolved issues from past experiences. Make a list of these complaints and think about/believe in discussing them with the relevant person to clear the air and move forward.

2. Make a different conversation from a debate: Recognize that a conversation and a debate are not the same. In a debate, the goal is to win, whereas in a conversation, the goal is understanding. Practice listening with the plan/purpose of truly understanding the other person's perspective rather than trying to prove them wrong.

3. Respond with softness and agreement: Instead of becoming defensive when receiving feedback or criticism, respond with softness and find something you can agree with in the person's statement. This helps create a non- angry surrounding conditions and paves the way for open communication.

4. Make future-focused requests: When dealing with issues, avoid spending too much time on past mistakes or focusing only on criticism. Instead, make future-oriented requests that involve finding solutions. By doing so, you shift the focus towards problem-solving and avoid getting stuck in a cycle of blame.

5. Be aware of your plan/purpose: Before entering any conversation or conflict, clear up your plan/purpose. Ask yourself if your first or most important goal is to be right or to be understood. Recognize that it is impossible to put in order of importance winning and maintaining a loving and open conversation at the same time.

Becoming a good listener and practicing non-defensiveness needs/demands deep work and self-awareness. These tips are just the starting point, and continued practice is necessary to develop the skill set of being an excellent conversationalist  (who likes to talk to people) and problem solver.

Actively respond

Couples who actively respond and engage in responsive communication have a better chance of maintaining long-lasting relationships. Being responsive means showing your partner that you are actively listening and engaging in the conversation. Nodding your head, using promising/stating true phrases such as "uh-huh" or "I understand," and asking open-ended questions to encourage further discussion all demonstrate that you are present and really/honestly interested in what your partner has to say.

Stop everything you're doing when your partner is speaking. 

We've all experienced divided attention - trying to listen to someone while focusing on other tasks. However, this divided attention leads to disconnection and a lack of understanding. To be a good listener, give your partner your undivided attention. Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and make eye contact with your partner. By doing so, you create a space where your partner feels valued and heard.

Listening without an agenda (list of things to deal with/desire to reach a goal)

Often, when we listen, we're busy creating our response instead of really/honestly hearing what the other person is saying. During arguments or conflicts, this habit/desire becomes even more common. Instead of focusing on your response, make a serious effort to listen without an agenda. Be present and really/honestly open to understanding what your partner is expressing. This attitude/setting paves the way for opinions of truly listening paves the way for connection and deeply caring, understanding feelings.

listening to learn 

When you approach conversations with a real/honest want to learn something about your partner - their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, or experiences - you create a deep connection. Your partner will feel your curiosity and interest, helping the development of trust and understanding. Don't be afraid to interrupt if you don't understand something. Asking your partner to clear up or explain further shows that you really/honestly want to understand their perspective. This simple act of looking for understanding can change your relationship.

Asking "What is this like for you?"

This skill is to ask the person, "What is this like for you?" This question is more effective than the common therapy question of "How does that make you feel?" because it recognizes that feelings of love, hate, fear, etc. can be complex and very hard to clearly say. It invites the person to explore not only their feelings of love, hate, fear, etc. but also their bodily feeling, thoughts, and overall experience.

Many people struggle to fully understand and express their feelings, especially in challenging situations or when they are looking for therapy. By asking this more open-ended question, you can help the person gain an understanding of their own experience and provide them with a platform to express themselves. For instance, if someone describes a very hard conversation they had with a coworker, you might ask, "What was going on in your body as you were going through that conversation? What thoughts or feelings were popping up for you?"


Validation is the skill that therapists use to listen effectively. Validation involves admitting/recognizing/responding to and accepting the other person's experience, even if you may not fully understand it or agree with it. By validating their feelings, thoughts, and reactions, you show deeply caring, understanding feelings, kindness, and respect.

Validation does not mean approval of a person's behavior or experiences; it simply means recognizing that their feelings of love, hate, fear, etc., and reactions are real and valid for them. It helps to create a safe and non-judgmental space for open and honest communication.

When validating, it can be helpful to say things like, "It makes sense that you would feel that way given what you've been through" or "I can understand why this situation would be so upsetting for you."

Understanding Confusion about feelings

This skill is understanding confusion about feelings. Confusion about feelings refers to feeling torn between two different paths or decisions. It often arises/comes up when someone wants to make a change or take a certain course of action but also has valid reasons for resisting that change.

As a listener, it is important to understand and explore the confusion about feelings that the person may be experiencing. This means admitting that change is complex and that people have their unique reasons and motivations.

To understand confusion about feelings, you can ask questions such as "What do you enjoy about the current situation?" or "What are some reasons you feel resistant to making a change?" By understanding and exploring the confusion about feelings, you can help the person gain an understanding of their internal conflicts and help their decision-making process.

Practicing these skills to be a better listener in a relationship

While these skills may sound simple, they require practice to master. They involve setting aside your thoughts, judgments, and sudden unplanned desires to interrupt or offer advice. Instead, focus on creating a safe and open space for the other person to express themselves fully.

You can begin by applying these skills in your everyday conversations. With friends, family members, or fellow workers, make a conscious effort to reflect on what they say, ask open-ended questions to understand their experience, validate their feelings of love, hate, fear, etc., and reactions, and explore any confusion about feelings they may have.

Over time, as you practice these skills, you will see improved communication, deeper connections, and stronger relationships. Remember, listening is an ongoing process that needs/demands continuous effort and growth, and becoming a better listener in a relationship