How To Listen in 5 Steps

How To Listen in 5 Steps

Have you ever felt like when you and your partner talk to each other, you end up feeling further apart than you did at the start?  Do you get the sense that they don’t really ‘get it’ and neither do you?

Conversation is meant to connect people, but it can also inflame underlying issues if we aren’t doing it well.  Sometimes when we talk with others, we might just be waiting for our turn to jump in with our input, advice, or own story.  This is more like two people talking at (or over) each other, rather than with each other, which can result in miscommunication and feelings of disconnection and despair.

It may sound simple but listening may actually be the key to getting on the same page.  Although we have two ears and only one mouth, listening is actually a really tough skill to learn.  Here’s how to start:

  1. Be present. When your partner (lover, son, sister, mother, anyone) comes to you with something important to discuss, do you put your phone down?  Do you take off your headphones?  Lift your head up from the book or the screen?
  2. Be open. This person is important to you (hopefully), and their words are expressions of their inner workings.  What is it that they want you to know from deep down?
  3. Be engaged. Try hearing and tracking the actual words they say from the beginning to end of their sentences, rather than interpreting their words or coming up with solutions or defences to what they’re saying half way through.
  4. Repeat what you heard. This is KEY.  It may seem clunky at first, but couples who successfully communicate check in with each other to make sure they heard each other correctly before continuing.  You can start by saying things like, ‘I heard you say…  And that you are feeling…. And that you need… Did I get that right?’  This sets you both up for a win because it gives your partner the chance to clarify and you the chance to make sure you really understand.
  5. Be patient. Sometimes it might take the two of you a while to really understand where the other is coming from and you might need to ask for clarification several times before you respond.  Even if you’ve been together a million years, learning to really listen to each other takes time but you will get better at it.


Learning to effectively communicate is essentially the core ingredient for a healthy relationship.  If you can both see conversation as your tool and not your enemy, closeness and connection flourishes.


By: Dr. Elizabeth Landau