7 Ways To Improve Listening Skills In Your Relationship

7 Ways To Improve Listening Skills In Your Relationship

Effective communication requires good listening skills. In order to have a successful relationship you need to be able to communicate in a way that makes your partner feel heard and known. When you actively listen to your partner you can gain a deeper understanding of what matters to them and who they are. By improving your listening skills, you can strengthen your couple connection and intimacy.

Listening

Listening is a skill that brings about a deeper level of understanding and a closer connection. It is an important component of effective communication. Listening is not a passive process. It requires you to pay attention and ask for clarification when necessary. Listening necessitates focusing on what is being said as well as how it is spoken. To effectively listen, you need to be engaged and aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages being sent. When you are really listening to your partner you can begin to develop a deeper understanding of who they are. This can improve your overall communication and deepen your intimacy.

1. Listen To Understand

Listening is about gaining a deep understanding of what is being said from your partner’s perspective. If you are busy thinking about what you are going to say, you are not effectively listening. Formulating a response takes your focus off of the speaker. This can cause you to miss information that could be important to your ability to understand what is being communicated. If you are listening to understand instead of listening to respond, your focus will be on the speaker the entire time they are talking. While you may not agree with your partner, at least you will understand them better.

2. Stay Focused

If you want to be a good listener, you need to give your undivided attention to your partner. To do this you will need to minimize distractions. Turn off the television, put down your phone and look at your partner. If you are distracted, not making eye contact, or doing something else, your partner will think you aren’t listening.  When you are not focusing on your partner, it sends an indirect message that what they have to say is not that important to you. Instead, create a safe environment where your partner can feel heard, understood, and connected simply by focusing on them and what they are saying.

3. Pay Attention To Non-Verbal Cues

Words are important in communication, but they only convey a part of the message. In order to gain a clearer understanding of what is being communicated, you need to pay attention not only to what is being said, but how it is said. To be a more effective listener, you will want to notice non-verbal cues as well. Body language is another way to communicate. Pay attention to facial expressions, tone of voice, and mannerisms in order to be a better listener. If there is a discrepancy between what is said and how it is said, your partner may not be feeling safe.

4. Reflect Back What You Heard

A good way to let your partner know that you are listening is to reflect back what you hear them say. This reflection is most effective when you are able to share in your own words the meaning that they are trying to express. Reflecting back what you hear helps build trust. When you are able to reflect back what your partner says, they will know that you are paying attention and listening for context as well as content. This will help them feel heard and understood.

5. Empathize And Validate

Effective listening enables you to validate your partner’s feelings and empathize with their experience. Validating your partner’s emotions let’s your partner know that you care about their emotions and inner experience. Empathy helps you attune to their feelings through emotional understanding. When you empathize with your partner and validate their experience, you create a safe environment where they can openly share free of judgment and shame. This can increase your intimate connection.

6. Ask Open-Ended Questions

While it is not helpful to interrupt your partner or offer advice that wasn’t asked for, it can be helpful to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions invite the speaker to expand on what they are communicating. Whereas closed-ended questions often only require a one word answer, open-ended questions create an opportunity for further discussion. Instead of asking Are you upset? You could gain a deeper understanding by asking How are you feeling? This communicates to your partner that you are listening and are interested in hearing more in order to really understand.

7. Summarize Your Understanding

Summarizing what your partner said at the end of the conversation shows them that you were listening to understand them. This is a great way to let your partner know that you are paying attention to both content and context. If you missed anything, your partner can clarify what they actually meant. Your couple connection can deepen when your partner feels you are listening.

The next time you have a discussion with your partner, try to actively listen to them. If you struggle to communicate effectively as a couple, counseling can help. When your partner feels heard and understood, the quality of your relationship will improve.

Anxiety In Children

Anxiety In Children

Anxiety can be challenging to deal with. This can be especially true for children who experience anxiety. Since anxiety can present differently in children than in adults, it can be hard for parents to recognize at times. Anxiety in children can be effectively managed when you understand the symptoms and seek out appropriate treatment.

Types Of Anxiety Children Can Experience

Anxiety in children is similar to anxiety in adults. There is usually fear and worry about something future-oriented with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety is a normal part of the fight-flight-freeze response that helps protect you from danger. However, it becomes problematic when this response occurs in situations that are not dangerous. Children can experience a generalized feeling of nervousness and worry. They can also experience phobias where anxiety occurs in relation to a specific trigger, such as thunderstorms. Some children have panic attacks or exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Separation anxiety, which is developmentally appropriate in toddlers, can be more difficult to manage in older children who won’t sleep alone or leave a parent’s side. Children can have anxiety in social situations. They can also worry about pleasing parents and teachers and can be very hard on themselves when they make a mistake.

Symptoms Of Anxiety In Children

Symptoms of anxiety can be different for everyone. Some children will express typical worry, fear, panic, and avoidance. For other children, the symptoms can be very different. In some children it is expressed as irritability or even anger. Other children have a lot of physical complaints. They may have frequent stomach aches, headaches, and complain about feeling too sick to do certain things. Compulsive behavior is another way that it can manifest in children. Some children have nightmares and have trouble being alone. Children who have trouble completing tasks because they fear making a mistake may also have anxiety.

Causes Of Anxiety In Children

While an exact cause of anxiety in children is unknown, there are some things that can make a child more likely to develop it. Some children are born with a more anxious, perfectionistic, or shy temperament. Children with ADHD or Autism are more likely to experience it as well. COVID-19, social distancing, and online learning can cause or increase symptoms of anxiety in children. If a parent struggles with anxiety, their child may pick up on their anxious behavior and respond to certain situations in a similar way. They could start responding to their everyday environment with more fear and worry. A child who experiences a traumatic event can also become anxious that it may happen again. This can include the death of a loved one, an accident, or even seeing someone else hurt.

How Anxiety Impacts Children

Anxiety can have a negative impact on a child’s ability to function effectively. Fear and worry can cause them to miss out on important activities. Sometimes they start avoiding people, places, and things that they once enjoyed. Physical complaints that often occur in children with anxiety can perpetuate this avoidance. This actually reinforces the anxiety and creates an avoidance response. Children may be too afraid to try new things and to venture out of their comfort zone. Since it can show up as irritability and anger, children can experience confusion and shame about their feelings and behaviors. Anxiety can lead to problems at school, in their social environment, and at home.

What Can Parents Do

Parents can help their child manage anxiety in a number of ways. You can model healthy ways for your child to respond to their anxiety. Practice breathing techniques and meditation with your child. Listen to your child’s experience and help them name their feelings. Normalize their feelings and encourage them to face their fears. Although it is natural to want to help your child avoid things that cause anxiety, doing this actually reinforces the fear. When children are able to face their fears, they can create new experiences and their fear and discomfort naturally decrease. Let your child know that their anxiety is normal and okay, and that they can handle it and not let it stop them from living their life.

Treatment For Anxiety In Children

If anxiety is having a negative impact on your child’s emotional well-being, there are treatment options available. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment to help manage anxiety. CBT can help children alter distorted thought patterns that lead to unwanted behaviors. A component of CBT, exposure and response therapy, helps children decrease anxiety related to a specific trigger through gradual exposure. Exposure therapy is especially effective in the treatment of phobias and separation anxiety. Medication can also be used to help children manage their anxiety.

There is help available if your child is struggling with anxiety. Therapy can teach your child effective coping strategies. This way your child can manage their anxiety so it doesn’t have a negative impact on their emotional well-being.

ADHD In ADULTS

ADHD In ADULTS

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often thought to primarily affect children. However, adults can also have ADHD. Adults with ADHD may have different symptoms than what is commonly seen in children. This can make it hard for adults with ADHD to receive a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If left untreated, ADHD can have a negative impact on an your ability to function effectively. This article considers some symptoms of ADHD commonly seen in adults.

What Is ADHD

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder commonly diagnosed in children. Children with ADHD have trouble with impulse control, organization, and focus. While the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, there appears to be a hereditary component. ADHD is thought to impair the executive functions of the brain. The three types of ADHD include, hyperactive-impulsive type, inattentive type (formerly known as ADD), and combined type. In the hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD, there is little impulse control and there is a lot of fidgeting, talking, interrupting, and impatience. The inattentive type is characterized by forgetfulness, lack of follow through, and being easily distracted. Those who have the combined type of ADHD experience a combination of symptoms related to both the hyperactive-impulsive type and the inattentive type. ADHD impacts around 11% of children and 5% of adults. Although ADHD is primarily diagnosed in childhood, adults that never received a diagnosis can also be impacted.

ADHD In Adults

ADHD childhood symptoms can continue into adulthood and can have a negative impact on your ability to function effectively. It is also possible for adults to receive an initial ADHD diagnosis after the age of 18. Those who experience the inattentive type of ADHD might not have received a diagnosis in childhood, as their symptoms were not as disruptive to others. ADHD in adults can cause problems in your work life, relationships, and health. Adults with ADHD are more likely to experience other mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, or depression. In fact, about half of all adults with ADHD also experience an anxiety disorder. If you have ADHD as an adult, your symptoms might present differently than they do in children. Recognizing the symptoms of ADHD in adults can help you get proper treatment so the symptoms don’t have a negative impact on your functioning.

Impulsiveness

Impulsivity can be an issue for adults with ADHD. You may have trouble waiting in line, waiting your turn to speak, or even driving safely. Mood swings can be common and it can be difficult to control emotional outbursts. Spending money on a whim, engaging in risky behavior, and impatience can cause problems in your relationships. Impulsivity can include coming up with unusual ideas, needing to talk out loud, and saying whatever comes to mind whether or not it is appropriate.

Time Management Issues

Adults with ADHD struggle to manage their time effectively. This can cause issues with others if you are constantly late, or forgetful. It may be difficult for you to organize your schedule. You may be forgetful and have trouble remembering things that you need to do when you really don’t want to do them. You might misplace important items, such as your car keys or phone, which can cause you to be late to meetings. Time management issues can have a negative impact on your work life and your relationships.

Trouble Focusing

A lack of focus can be a problem for adults with ADHD. Tasks that are boring, or no longer interesting can be very hard to complete. There may be a number of projects around the house, or even at work that are only partially completed. It may be hard to listen to others in conversations and pay attention to details. Trouble focusing in adults with ADHD includes difficulty sustaining attention and being easily distracted. This can lead to problems on the job and with the important people in your life.

Hyperfocusing

Along with a lack of focus, hyperfocusing can also be a symptom of adult ADHD. Hyperfocus, or intensely concentrating on something so deeply that you ignore or fail to notice anything else, is also related to ADHD. When you hyperfocus, it is easy to lose track of time and others around you. This may be helpful in certain work environments. However, it is often problematic in relationships as those close to you might feel like they are not a priority in your life.

Restlessness

Restlessness can be a symptom of ADHD in adults. Like children, some adults with ADHD can have trouble being still. You may feel constantly keyed up and always want to be moving. This can lead to a lot of frustrations when you work a desk job. Fidgeting, getting up frequently, and engaging in some form of physical activity can help with restlessness. If your thoughts are also restless, you may experience anxiety as well.

Work Issues

ADHD can have a negative impact on your job. It could be hard for you to complete certain tasks. You may have difficulty remembering to attend meetings, or be on time to work events. It could be difficult to sustain interest in the job you are doing and you might impulsively quit. Some of the symptoms of ADHD can make your work life very stressful. It is not uncommon for adults with untreated ADHD to have trouble keeping a job.

Health Problems

Adults with ADHD can suffer from health problems. Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression are common in adults with ADHD. Forgetting to take prescribed medication, neglecting to schedule doctor’s visits, and ignoring minor health issues can occur with ADHD. Sleep disturbances and poor eating and exercise habits can also be seen in adults with ADHD.

Relationship Issues

Relationship struggles can also occur in adults with ADHD. Problems can be noticed in friendships, work relationships, romantic relationships, and with family members. Due to the symptoms of ADHD, you might be seen as insensitive, irresponsible, or uncaring. Others may view you as unreliable and inconsistent, which can take a toll on your relationships. It can sometimes be difficult to engage in and maintain close relationships because of your ADHD symptoms.

If you experience several of these symptoms and it is impacting your ability to function effectively, help is available. After receiving a diagnosis, a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy can help you successfully manage symptoms of ADHD. This can improve your health, work, relationships, and overall emotional well-being.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior In Your Relationship

Passive-Aggressive Behavior In Your Relationship

While aggressive behavior is quite obvious and easily noticed, passive-aggressive behavior can be hard to spot. Passive-aggression is a manipulative form of aggression that is not direct and is easily denied. It’s an indirect way of dealing with anger that often leads to a lot of trouble in your partnership. If passive-aggressive behavior becomes a pattern, it can have a negative impact on your ability to maintain a healthy relationship. 

What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior is an indirect way of expressing negative emotions where you do not communicate them directly. Instead of being overt about your anger or needs, you express them in a very passive manner. There is definitely hostility in this type of behavior, although it is often covert. For example, if your normally punctual spouse is late whenever you pick the movie, they might be acting passive-aggressively. When you confront them, they deny doing this on purpose and offer plausible reasons as to why they were late. While it seems like they’re doing this on purpose, it can be difficult to tell as it is very subtle. Passive-aggressive behavior can have a very negative impact on your relationship.

How To Recognize Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressivion can be difficult to recognize at times. The main way to recognize this behavior is by the uneasy feeling you get when someone is being passive-aggressive. The underlying hostility is pretty obvious and is easy to feel. Common passive-aggressive behaviors include biting sarcasm, backhanded compliments, and sulking. Giving the silent treatment and pretending everything is fine when it clearly isn’t are passive-aggressive behaviors. Procrastinating, or failing to appropriately finish agreed upon tasks are other ways that passive-aggressiveness can occur in your relationship. Those who avoid conflict, have people-pleasing tendencies, and have difficulty expressing their needs, can use passive-aggressive behavior.

Why Engage In Passive-Aggressive Behavior

While everyone uses passive-aggressive behavior at times, it’s harmful to your relationship when this type of behavior occurs often. This is a learned behavior that can be traced back to prior relationships or even childhood. If as a child you witnessed others using passive-aggressive tactics, you may be more likely to use them yourself. If normal expressions of anger aren’t tolerated by an abusive parent, it feels safer to express this emotion indirectly. Likewise, if as a child you witnessed your caregiver’s explosive anger, you may fear anger in others and avoid conflict. If you are afraid of anger, or believe it isn’t appropriate, you may not express it in a healthy way. Passive-aggressive behavior is also associated with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and ADHD. 

How Passive-Aggressive Behavior Can Harm Your Relationship

Passive-aggressive behavior can have a negative impact on your relationship. Since this behavior is subtle, it can be difficult to know when there are serious issues in your relationship. When you do not share your concerns openly, you can’t find a resolution. If you act in covert ways instead of openly expressing your needs and disappointments, it’s confusing to your partner. When anger is expressed in a healthy way, you can find a resolution and get closure. If instead, you use passive-aggressive tactics, the anger is there and often felt, but it’s just under the surface. This keeps it from being openly discussed and worked through and creates a lot of tension in your relationship. It’s hard to feel close to your partner when they aren’t opening up.

What You Can Do If You Are Being Passive-Aggressive

Once you recognize passive-aggressive behavior in yourself, there are things you can do to stop it. First, you will want to notice how you are feeling when you start acting in passive-aggressive ways. Allow yourself to feel these feelings along with your fear of confrontation. Figure out what your passive-aggressiveness is trying to accomplish, and share this with your partner. For instance, tell your partner you don’t like romantic comedies so you procrastinate when they choose this type of movie and this is why you are late. Instead of using passive-aggressive behavior, establish clear boundaries. Practice being assertive and sharing your feelings and needs with your partner. You can start slow and share unimportant things at first. As you become comfortable opening up to your partner and being direct, you can start discussing important issues as well.

What You Can Do If Your Partner Is Being Passive-Aggressive

If your partner has a pattern of acting in passive-aggressive ways, there are things you can try that might help. Don’t give in to these tactics, take on their responsibilities, or use passive-aggressive behavior yourself. Calling your partner out on their behavior could backfire and create a parent/child relationship dynamic and increase this behavior. However, sharing your own experience can help. Use “I” statements to share what it’s like for you when your partner is using passive-aggressive behavior. Explain how it impacts your relationship, and what you would like instead. Establish clear boundaries in your relationship. Create a safe environment where you can each state your feelings and concerns directly. Respond to your partner’s directness with empathy and compassion, not judgment and criticism. Work together to come up with effective solutions. When directness is expected and accepted, passive-aggressive behavior patterns can change.

Passive-aggressive behavior can cause a lot of problems in your relationship. When you don’t address your needs and feelings of anger directly, it’s hard to find a resolution. If passive-aggressive behavior is an ongoing problem in your relationship, therapy can help. Learning to be more assertive and directly share your needs can help you create and sustain a healthy fulfilling relationship.

COVID-19 Update

In response to the current coronavirus threat, online/virtual appointments are now available.