[ continued from yesterday ]
No matter how much you get the urge to break-in should your partner say something that you don’t like, hold it back! It’s not about you right now, it’s about you demonstrating to your man that you care and are invested in understanding life through his frame-of-reference, no matter how different it may be from yours.
Listening is not about agreeing with your boyfriend and doing what he says, it’s about being fully present and gaining clarity into each other’s experience of your relationship.
Be aware of any internal or external factors that could distract you and redirect yourself back to your listening responsibility. Nonverbal communication is integral as well. Make sure you have an open body posture, maintain good eye contact, give affirmative head nods and the occasional “mmm-hmm’s”, etc.
Step 3: LISTEN!
Now it’s time to respond to demonstrate that you really heard your partner’s message and can articulate his thoughts, feelings, needs, and experience non-defensively and without judgment. Speaker goes through a three-step process now to enact this type of scenario. Relationship expert Harville Hendrix developed a technique called Intentional Dialogue to provide a structure for open communication.
The steps involved in this strategy include:
1. Mirroring: Repeat what you heard your partner say in your own words. You might use a sentence stem like “What I heard you say was…” Your partner will confirm if you are accurate or will help clarify the message for you until you can mirror it precisely. Avoid parroting back what your lover said word-for- word; instead, paraphrase back what you heard in your own language for more meaning and depth.
2. Validation: Find some grain of logic in what your partner communicated and convey this back to him. “That makes sense to me because…” is a good lead-in. You don’t have to agree with what your partner said, but it’s vital to tell him how and why his experience makes sense to you for the ultimate in making him feel acknowledged and safe.
3. Empathy: Put yourself in your boyfriend’s shoes and imagine what the experience must feel like for him, and say something to the effect of “I imagine that might make you feel…”
Then the two of you switch roles, and you will become the sender and your partner will become the listener and you repeat the process again. While this may not feel like a natural way to communicate, be open to it and give it a try! It’s harder than it looks, but it is an extremely effective way to build trust and intimacy in your relationship as you support each other through active listening.
Sometimes solid listening is all that’s needed to solve a problem; other times we may just want to be heard without any intervention from our partner. A client of mine I worked with once said, “I don’t want my boyfriend to problem-solve or fix anything. Sometimes I just want him to listen to me and be a sounding-board without offering any advice or opinions.” Listening can be very therapeutic for a relationship.
Conclusion - Listening may not solve all your problems, but it helps create an atmosphere of nurturance and safety in your relationship. Listening is a precursor for effective conflict resolution, so don’t underestimate its power and avoid jumping into problem-solving mode at its expense, as we guys often do.
Look for the positive intent in all your communications and you’ll both enjoy a more fruitful and enjoyable sense of connection in your partnership.
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions.
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com