Couple in Woods Rubbing Noses

Listening and really being 100% present with someone is one of the best gifts you can give to them and to your relationship. Whether it’s with a friend, partner, child, parent or co-worker, listening without judgment is a way toward a deeper connection.

If your goal is to understand and dive into the other person’s experience, you might be surprised at how your connection with them deepens.

So often we are so busy trying to think about what we’re going to say next, that we don’t really listen and we miss a lot of clues to the other person’s inner world.

Become a Neutral Reporter

When the goal is to deepen your understanding, ask open ended questions and listen as if you were a neutral reporter who has no judgment or opinions about whether what they’re hearing is right or wrong, could be done better or is just downright crazy. The goal is to gather information about the other person’s experience and to look for the tidbits that are fascinating, unique and surprising about them, without judging, dismissing or interjecting your own ideas.

Listening and Validation

It’s important when listening to not fire questions at people as if they’re on trial, but instead slow down, nod your head, signal that you’re listening with hmm’s. Then be sure to offer understanding and validation, again, without judging. Remember the goal is to understand the other person’s experience.


  •  That sounds….. fill in the blank with whatever you imagine the person might have been feeling such as: wonderful, difficult, frustrating, etc.
  • Gosh, I think most people would feel that way.
  • You’ve really been through a lot.
  • That seems like a very normal reaction

Open-ended questions

Here are a few that help me understand people better:

  • What surprised you about your day?
  • What was that like for you?
  • What inspired you to do …..(fill in the blank)
  • How did that happen?
  • Is there anything you would do differently next time?
  • How did you feel before, after or during?

With a Partner

No matter how long you’ve been with someone, creating and nurturing a deep emotional connection takes time. As John Gottman of the Gottman Institute advises, create daily rituals of connection with your partner to check in, listen and be supportive.

If things have been a little rocky

Start wherever you are now.

Find time teach day to talk about what’s on your mind, the good, bad and ugly. You know, your hopes, dreams and challenges.

Here’s a few more tips that might help

  1. It’s important to have a few ground rules. 1st agree to just listen to each other’s ideas and thoughts about what’s most important to each other. Just listen, without any judgment or interrupting to defend your own viewpoint.
  2. Wait to respond, remember you’re each in the process of gathering information and learning more for better understanding.
  3. Repeat back what you heard – Try to reflect back what you think your partner was trying to communicate heard to make sure that you understood them correctly.
  4. Ask more open-ended questions to clarify anything that was confusing. Dive deeper into what the underlying concerns or priorities are.
  5. Then switch roles and let the other person listen to understand better
  6. Then reflect back again and find common ground. “Wow, it sounds like we’re both feeling overwhelmed right now by the kids.”
  7. Then be sure to thank each other for just listening. Not every issue needs to be solved, sometimes listening is enough to feel supported and that you’re a team.

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