When we think about conversational skills, we often assume that this means focusing on what we say and how we say it. But listening and asking the right questions are both important skills too. And in the context of relationships, being a good listener is crucial!
Ellyn Bader, co-founder of The Couples Institute, has extensively researched methods for becoming an attentive listener. By following her guidelines for inquiry, you can polish your conversational skills and show your partner that you truly care about what they have to say.
Here’s how to get more out of every conversation with your partner by being a better inquirer.
Stay Calm and Listen
When your partner comes to you with a problem, take a deep breath. Remember, just because there is an issue doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Your partner is coming to you with their experience of the problem. If you jump into defensive mode, you could derail the conversation.
Instead, think about the big picture and do your best not to take things personally. Don’t try to make the discussion all about you?instead, think about how you and your partner fit together in the grand scheme of things.
Ask Thoughtful Questions
Stay curious throughout the conversation. Ask your partner questions about how they’re feeling, what is upsetting them, and what they might want to do next.
Try to resist the temptation to offer solutions right away. Do your best to gain a deeper understanding of your partner’s experience. Curiosity is the key to better understanding your partner and increasing the level of empathy in the relationship.
Check in With Yourself
As the conversation continues, you may feel your emotions running high. This is a good opportunity to check in with yourself. It’s also the perfect time to remind yourself that, ultimately, you are not responsible for your partner’s emotions.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to support them. However, it does mean that you do not have to take on their unhappiness. That will not help the situation.
Take Time to Recap
After you and your partner have been talking for a while, it’s a good idea to recap the conversation. Tell your partner everything that you’ve heard from them so far.
Make sure that you’ve accurately understood what they’ve been trying to tell you. If you need to repeat what they said back to them verbatim, go ahead and do it. Your partner wants confirmation that they have gotten their message across.
Empathise With Your Partner
It’s important to remember to display empathy when your partner is struggling to get the words out. Think about how you can put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
Try to be a soothing presence. This does not mean you have to walk on eggshells if you feel like you need to disagree with something they’ve said. However, empathy is essential in order to get through difficult conversations. At times like this, a little empathy can go a long way.
Reflect on Your Individuality
Finally, you may need to take another moment to remind yourself that your partner is a separate individual with their own emotions. It’s okay if you do not feel the same way they do. And if you’re struggling to maintain a boundary between their emotions and your own mindset, you may need to reflect on this in the midst of the conversation.
Above all, continue to refrain from seeking out solutions just yet, that might come later!
Do you feel like you and your partner could be having more productive, thoughtful conversations? Are you trying to become a better inquirer but feel like you haven’t made much progress on your own? Relationship therapy can help. Please, reach out to us to find out more.