from the Submissive Guide Newsletter 9/24/16
"The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply."
Submissive Guide was started not to just share what I know, it is also, at least for me, a way to continue to learn by talking out my struggles and answering the questions presented to me. Communication comes up frequently as a key topic to developing and maintaining healthy, open relationships. But many of us don't know what good communication looks like and have problems with at least one part of good communication techniques.
I have problems with my interpersonal communication too. You are not alone in this. One such problem is my inability to not interrupt KnyghtMare when he is speaking. It's been a problem since the beginning of our relationship and one that has tested his patience many times over. Interrupting him shows him I don't respect him and his decisions, it causes a lot of misunderstandings because I do not wait for him to finish his thoughts and demonstrates that I'm not listening and what he's saying isn't important. It's a terrible flaw in my ability to communicate and one that I continue to work on day by day.
In a recent class I attended on Communication, Mr Ellen, _his_owner on FetLife, talked about how to improve your interpersonal communication skills. Listening to her speak I was motivated to explore what I lack; active listening skills. She said, and I agree, that active listening is something that can be learned and should be learned for effective communication. All communication skills can be learned, but I'm going to focus on active listening for this article since that's where my largest problem is. I've done some research since that class and I thought I'd share with you what I've learned because, as I said, it's a huge issue that affects many people.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening is making a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.
It's quite important to D/s communication because as we've probably all encountered, communication is the cornerstone to D/s. It's the thing we all agree needs to be open and honest and an important tool in our relationships. The community is always putting a strong emphasis on communicating clearly, but we rarely have classes on how to improve our skills. Yet another reason I'm happy I attended Mr Ellen's class. Good communication skills build relationships and allow us to have a clear understanding of what another person needs, wants, has trouble explaining and simply to share their message with another.
Active Listening Behaviors
Behaviors of active listeners are varied, but through my reading and research, I found quite a few common ones I want to share with you.
- Make eye contact.
- Exhibit affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions.
- Ask questions.
- Avoid distracting actions or gestures.
- Paraphrase with "What I heard you say was..."
- Avoid Interrupting speaker
- Don't think of the reply before the speaker is done sending the message
- Don't overtalk or talk over the person who is speaking
My biggest issue is that I interrupt KnyghtMare, I talk over him... loudly might I add, and I am always forming responses in my head long before he's done talking. This has done quite some negative things to my ability to communicate with him and he's tried so many things to help me learn my place in the communication loop.
Things we've tried include making me count to three before speaking, not allowed to talk at all without permission, he stops talking and won't continue if I've interrupted him - even if what he was saying was important and also face-slapping. None of which has stopped my bad behaviors and teach me active listening. I've not given up trying to fix my behavior. I know that if I can learn better active listening that our communication will grow by leaps and bounds and I'll get into trouble far less often.
How to Practice Active Listening
In my endeavors to continue to learn and improve I've found some valuable tips for how to learn active listening if you too are lacking in skills with this side of communication like I am.
Be fully in the moment.
You need to avoid distractions, quiet your mind, turn off electronics and look at the person speaking. Do not try multitasking; you may miss the meaning of the message, even if you heard the words.
Put yourself in their shoes.
Imagine yourself in their situation, wanting to be heard. Try to imagine their life and the struggles they might be facing as they talk to you. Empathy is a powerful tool for understanding what they are saying.
Pick up the key points and let the speaker know that you did.
It's easy to let our attention drift. Let the speaker know you were listening by mentioning the key points and ask to clarify what you didn't understand.
Practice, practice, practice.
Pretend you will be quizzed on how much of what they are saying you heard and understood. Repeating what you heard when they are done speaking is a great way to show them that you were really listening.
Develop curiosity, and open mind, and a desire for continuous growth.
I love learning but have, until now, focused more on the written word. Begin seeing conversations as learning opportunities and watch the world open up around you.
Over the next month or so I am going to practice my active listening using the suggestions above. I'm not sure how well I'll do but I will try to keep a log of my progress. I invite all of you to participate as well. Hopefully, the next time I write about communication I'll be able to update you on my progress with learning active listening and be able to give a positive report.
Thoughts to Ponder
- How good are you at active listening?
- Do you find yourself forming replies before the speaker is done talking?
- What will you work on related to communication in the next month or so?