Please take a look at your own listening rather than look at the mistakes others are making.
In this self-inventory, check how well you are able to let the topic just be. How often do you change the topic, perhaps because you have grown bored? Why else do you change the topic? Be really aware of changing the topic versus truly listening to what the person has to say.
Do you listen while you are checking Facebook, e-mail, voice mail or LinkedIn? If you are listening, unless you are listening on the phone, the phone should not be a distraction. Are you giving good eye contact and sending the message that what the talker is talking about it worth listening to? How do you let the talker know you are listening and you get what they are saying? Are you distractedly listening and then asking the person to repeat themselves? Are you agreeing to things and then not remembering your promises?
Are you signaling contempt for what the person is telling you?
Are you trying to fix the problem or solve it or are you listening just to be with the person?
Are you listening so that you have a better response or are you listening just to listen?
How often do you criticize or judge while you are listening? This is a conversation killer and in my experience, most likely the other person will not tell you why they stopped talking to you. It is not enjoyable to pour out your heart and soul and be judged. You have made it about you, the listener, instead of about the talker.
When you are listening and something the person said triggers an emotion, are you able to still listen or do you become the talker immediately? Are you able to wait your turn or do you interrupt the talker? Do you take turns? Do you control the flow, the content of the conversation or let it be? The message many talkers receive when this happens is, “Please talk, but I have no intention of listening to you.”
My clients say things like, “We cannot even have a conversation, how can we expect to have a relationship?”
We teach validation and clarification. When you are able to really hear someone, put yourself in their shoes and experience life from their perspective, that is deep listening. This is called empathy and you communicate empathy via validation. “I get your perspective.” Cannot repeat this often enough.
Almost everyone I have met is capable of doing it, if they discipline themselves. In counseling, we talk quite a bit about ability (skills) and willingness (“Do they even want to try?”). You communicate clearly whether or not you are willing by disciplining yourself regarding validation.
Once you have practiced validation, you make yourself a better conversation partner. Next step is “doing something about it.” People make multiple requests to get their needs met and validation is a great step in the process. Following through and doing what was agreed upon is where many, many marriages get hung up. The conversation went smoothly enough, they even came to an understanding and agreed on next steps and someone did not do what they promised. They have the conversation again and follow up. The person did understand and truly meant to follow through. Again they agree to it because it makes sense, is reasonable and realistic.
Marriages break down in large numbers if the person again breaks the promise. At this point, communication is not the problem, the message is the problem. The message the person receives is that their needs do not matter and they will not get their needs met. This is the death knell for many marriages.
It sounds so easy to fix, to move beyond.
This is the essence of marital breakdown.