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Listen Hard

Listening Skills

How well do you connect with your nearest and dearest? A lot of psychological research has explored this subject, but it’s not rocket science. Perhaps the most critical ingredient is about how well you show interest and curiosity in your partner. Showing interest makes people feel heard and valued, and they like you more for it.

The relationship researcher, John Gottman, showed how couples continually make ‘bids’ for the others attention. “Have you seen this?”, or “Let me tell you who I saw today” are kinds of requests for attention. The research clearly shows that the way these requests are met has a massive impact on the health of a relationship. Following a large group of newlyweds over a 6 year period he found that those that broke up only had one in three of their bids for attention met, whilst those that stayed together had their ‘bids’ met ninety percent of the time.

In 2006, Californian psychologist, Shelly Gable, did a similar study. She found that there were four ways of responding to hearing good news. You could either completely ignore it, or respond in a half-hearted way, like “OK, that’s nice”. Or you could respond in a negative way, taking the wind out of the other’s sails. These three styles sap the energy from the conversation. The fourth way, which was an essential ingredient in predicting which couples stayed together, was what she called an active constructive response. This response was about paying attention, listening, and asking for the other person to say even more about their good news.

Research like this tell us what we already know. But it is a reminder, if any were needed, that taking care of any relationship involves paying attention, listening and responding with interest.

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