• The Power of Feeling Heard in Relationships

    A lot of people who come to Birmingham Counselling Services are wanting to improve their relationships. In this article we look at the power of listening.

    How often do you speak to someone and sense that they aren’t listening to you?  Perhaps there is something about their response, or lack of response telling you that you have not been heard or understood.

    Perhaps you have felt:

    • diminished by the lack of importance attributed to what you said by the listener
    • mis-understood or judged by the listener’s response…or lack of it
    • angry that you are not able to get your point across

    The impact of not feeling heard is far greater than you might think and ongoing exposure to the feelings it can generate can affect your self-esteem, confidence and trust in other people to give you what you need. It can be anxiety provoking to consider that you are unable to communicate your needs or point of view or that you are being judged for something you have said.

    You can avoid these unpleasant feelings in your own relationship by listening to each other better. Here are some ideas for how to make sure that you both feel heard.

    • Be aware of what you do physically – maintain eye contact and show that you are listening by using simple non-verbal communication such as nodding
    • Try not to be distracted – they will see that you are pre-occupied and will sense that you are not listening
    • Don’t give advice, especially before you fully understand your partner’s concerns – remember, they may just need to feel heard and understood.  It is sometimes tempting to try to fix things for someone you care about but try to respect their autonomy.
    • Be empathic – try reflecting back to your partner what they have said to show that you have heard them and to check your understanding
    • Listen even if you don’t agree – try not to judge what they have said based on your own preconceived ideas
    • Don’t act out your defensiveness even if you feel blamed for something – you can say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ even if you don’t agree that you are to blame

    Being heard allows people to process how they are feeling and to support this, you do not necessarily need to do any more than to listen.  It is really important to remember that you won’t always agree but that doesn’t mean that you can’t listen.  You may have conflicting values or character ideals and listening well is a great way way to show that you are embracing your differences.

    So, listening well means hearing things from someone else’s perspective, without judgement, and responding in a warm and genuine way.

    Try listening better next time your partner asks to speak to you – the power of feeling heard will speak for itself.

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