Common communication problems in separation: are you really listening?
In our second blog focusing on communication problems we’re talking about listening. You may think you know what listening is, but read on and let us know if anything surprises you. Last week we explained how communication can be challenging when a couple are at very different points in the healing or grieving process.
To watch the video discussing this blog click on the video below:
Many people listen so they can reply but this means you are filtering content and once you have your reply you will probably not hear anything further. Listening to really understand what someone is saying is a very different kind of listening. If you listen in this way you can then summaries what you think you heard and see if resonates with the speaker. Even with all our understanding of listening we still find that sometimes we haven’t heard what we think we’ve heard.
A common problem that occurs in separation is that often people assume they know what their ex partner is going to say. They were in a relationship with them for a long time and they know them and they know their views so they assume they know what they’re thinking. This can lead to communication problems because you are projecting thoughts and ideas on to your ex partner which may not be their actual thoughts and feelings. Problems communicating can often be what causes a relationship to fail so don’t assume you really have understood where your ex partner is coming from.
Here are some tips to improve your listening which may in turn impact on your ability to communicate:
1. Try listening without an attachment to what your ex partner is saying. Listen like they are explaining something to you for the first ever time and ask for clarification about anything that doesn’t seem clear to you.
2. Active listening is also a useful skill. You may be listening to someone but if you are also scrolling through Facebook or unloading the dishwasher they may feel you’re not giving them your full attention. Pause what it is you’re doing, look them in the eye and nod when they’re talking to show that they have your attention and you are listening. Leave periods of silence to see if there is anything they want to add rather than jumping straight in with your thoughts. It can be interesting to see whether your conversation then takes a different turn as the person feels listened to and heard. Summarising what you think you’ve heard can also be a useful tool in ensuring the other person feels heard. We all know how frustrating it can be to feel you’re not being listened to and giving someone your full attention can take the conversation off into a completely different direction. Try it with your children too and see if this makes a difference to your communication!
3. Letting the other person finish talking and responding calmly with a measured tone can also be important in changing the tone of your communication. Leaping in before the other person has finished in an elevated or angry tone can instantly make the other person feel the need to defend the point they’ve made. If both people feel they have to defend themselves then you’re much more likely to find you’re having an argument rather than a conversation or a discussion.
We hope these tips are useful for improving your communication following a separation. Stay tuned to this series of blogs being published every Monday as we’ll be covering other aspects of communication in more depth. If you’d like to get these blogs and other resources directly into your inbox then join our free mailing list. We also have a separate mailing list for professionals working with separating couples which includes details of our forthcoming training workshops and networking events.
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