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How to Listen Mindfully to Your Partner

Last week, I wrote about mindfulness and the many benefits it can provide for a fulfilled and happy relationship. It’s hard to make changes in our daily lives because we’re all so busy, so we’ll take small steps into exploring mindfulness and trying it out in our lives. 

If you’ve followed us from the beginning, you will already have tried out to be mindful in your everyday life, like when you take a shower or have breakfast.

This week, let’s practice some mindfulness in interaction with your loved ones — mindful listening!

What is mindful listening?

Well, essentially you listen mindfully when you give the person speaking your entire attention. No distractions and no judgment of what’s being said, just be there for them and with them.

Doing this sounds easy but it’s often really hard in everyday life. 

Take yesterday, for example. I was overtired because someone misdialed, called our house at 3 am, and I could not fall asleep afterwards anymore. My latest chapter for my child development textbook needed to be sent to the publisher by the end of the week.

Then, the critter problems: We have mice in the basement that we can’t seem to catch and that seem to be finding their way to the kitchen now. The kids we just had over for a playdate had head lice and we only found out afterwards.

I just discovered the gallon milk jug in the fridge had been leaking uncontrollably for a few hours.

Each of the three kids had separate appointments in the afternoon around the same time, and I hadn’t yet figured out how to make sure everybody would be where they needed to be on time. My mind was spinning.

Then my husband approached me and wanted to discuss his latest idea for a new book. How attentive do you think I was? Truth be told, it was really hard to concentrate on anything because so much was going through my mind at the same time. And yet, don’t our loved ones deserve our fullest attention when they approach us with something that’s important to them?

 

Why should I even try to listen mindfully?

Why should you mindfully listen anyway? Well, there are several reasons. 

You'll understand better what your partner says

First of all, you’ll be able to better understand what your partner says. If you give someone your full attention while they speak to you, you will pick up more nuances of what they’re speaking about. How are they feeling, and what are they only saying through the lines? What are they communicating non-verbally, with their body? What is left unsaid?

You can react in a better way to your partner

Second, you can react better to your partner. If you listen carefully, you will be better able to understand your partner. Does your partner have any needs or requires support? If so, what kind of support? Is your partner sharing dreams or aspirations with you? Or will your partner just be plainly thankful when they’re sharing organizational details for the upcoming day and they don’t have to repeat several times what they said because you blanked out in between?

You can remember better what was said

Third, you’ll be able to remember more of what was said. No surprise - if you listen attentively, you’ll be able to remember what your partner said.

You are better able to connect with your loved ones

Fourth, you’ll be able to connect better with your loved one. Imagine how you feel when someone listens to you closely, pays attention to what you say and how you’re feeling, and reacts in a supportive way? It makes you feel good, doesn’t it? And anything that makes you feel good is good for your relationship as well.

Plus, if you’re taking the time to listen to engage in a conversation anyway, you might just make the best of your time and do so with all your mind and heart. I personally think if you’re doing something only half-heartedly you might as well not do it at all because it’s a waste of your time, right? Always give your best 🙂

 

So how do I mindfully listen?

The main idea, as always with mindfulness, is to be fully present. As I said above, this can be really hard in everyday life. 

Be forgiving with yourself. Give your best, and accept it if your best isn’t always as good as you’d like it to be. You can always give it another try later on.

As you listen, keep the following in mind:

  • Pay full attention to what your partner is saying - be present
  • Try to be aware of distractions and shut them out as best as you can
  • Your own worries, emotional reactions,  and thoughts count as distractions, too. Keep them in check as well!
  • Use empathy: How does your partner feel, and how would you feel in that situation?
  • Try to understand the essence of what your partner is saying. A lot may get said - what is the basic point they’re making?
  • Use your background knowledge: You know your partner so well. What are they saying between the lines, and what is left unsaid?
  • Show interest and show them you are listening by nodding, smiling and keeping eye contact.
  • Last but not least, you can give verbal feedback that shows you’re attentive.

Give it a try this week, and let us know how it’s going or if you have any questions!

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