"The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply."

Submissive Guide was started not just to 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 is a key topic to developing and maintaining healthy, open relationships. But many of us need to learn what good communication looks like and have problems with at least one part of good communication techniques.

I need help with my interpersonal communication, too. You are not alone in this. One such problem is my inability not to 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, which 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 I continue to work on daily.

In a recent class I attended on Communication, Mr Ellen, _his_owner on FetLife, talked about improving your interpersonal communication skills. Listening to her speak, I was motivated to explore what I lacked: active listening skills. She said, and I agree, that active listening can be learned and should be learned for effective communication. All communication skills can be learned, but I will focus on active listening for this article since that's where my most significant problem is. I've done some research since that class, and I'm sharing 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, trying to understand the complete message being sent.

It's crucial to D/s communication because, as we've all encountered, communication is the cornerstone of D/s. It's the thing we all agree needs to be open and honest and an essential 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 shares their message with another.

Active Listening Behaviors

The 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.

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Exhibit affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Avoid distracting actions or gestures.
  5. Paraphrase with "What I heard you say was..."
  6. Avoid Interrupting speaker
  7. Don't think of the reply before the speaker is done sending the message
  8. 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 constantly forming responses in my head long before he's done talking. These poor behaviors have done quite a few 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 being allowed to talk without permission, stopping talking, and not continuing if I've interrupted him - even if what he was in the middle of saying was important, and face-slapping. None of which has stopped my destructive behaviors and taught me active listening. I've not given up trying to fix my behavior. If I can learn better active listening, our communication will grow by leaps and bounds, and I'll get into trouble far less often.

Benefits of Active Listening in D/s Relationships

Here are some of the key benefits of active listening in power exchange relationships:

Improved communication: When you can use active listening during communication to paraphrase and ask clarifying questions, it reduces the chances of misunderstandings and improves comprehension. Knowing and understanding each other fully is of great importance in power exchange, where frequently, taking liberties with the comprehension of requests, orders, or tasks might get you in trouble. Learning to listen with intent to understand, paraphrasing what you understand, and then asking clarifying questions on parts of the conversation if you need further information will give you a stronger sense of submission. You’ll know you follow their commands precisely as they wish them to be done because you made sure of their desires and did not make assumptions.

Increased empathy: By reflecting on and responding to your partner’s emotions, you can express compassion, build a stronger connection, and honor your partner’s feelings.

Greater trust: Active listening builds trust by creating a safe and supportive environment where you can feel comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings.

Reduced conflict: When you use active listening, you can work together to find solutions to conflicts and reach compromises that meet both you and your partner’s needs.

Improved intimacy: Active listening deepens the emotional bond between partners, which enhances your physical and emotional connection. One of the most common physical intimacy barriers in relationships is broken down through active listening. When you have effective communication, your sexual satisfaction will grow also.

Barriers to Active Listening

Despite the benefits of active listening, several barriers prevent couples from being effective in their communication. Some of the most common barriers include distractions, defensiveness, and misunderstandings.

Distractions come in many forms. Setting up a safe and trusting environment to talk is one of the foundations of a healthy D/s relationship. Technology, noise, stress, or physical discomfort break down a safe space. It’s important to eliminate as many of these distractions as possible to create a peaceful environment to communicate without interruption.

Defensiveness is another barrier to active listening that can arise when people feel attacked or criticized. When one person becomes defensive, it can be difficult for the other partner to feel heard and understood. To overcome this, try to remain calm and avoid blaming or accusing each other. Learn to use your “I feel” statements.

Misunderstandings are another common barrier to active listening. Couples need to check in with each other to make sure they are on the same page and that they fully understand each other. This is especially essential when discussing the D/s dynamic and your place within it. From the initial conversations through tweaking rules and working out specific challenges, actively seeking to understand each other can prevent misunderstandings that lead to further conflict.

How to Practice Active Listening

In my endeavors to continue to learn and improve my listening skills, I've found some valuable tips for how to learn active listening if you, too, need to improve in skills with this side of communication like I am. Here’s what I’m practicing to become a better listener.

First, Be fully in the moment.

You must avoid distractions, quiet your mind, turn off electronics, and look at the person speaking. Make eye contact, listen carefully, and don’t interrupt them. Do not try multitasking; you may miss the message's meaning, even if you hear the words.

Second, 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. To gain a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings, pay attention to their tone of voice, body language, and emotions. When actively listening to them, you’re taking in everything they are saying, even if it’s not their words.

Thirdly, 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 when you respond and ask to clarify what you didn't understand. This can help you avoid misunderstandings and show your partner that you care about what they have to say.

Then, 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.

Finally, Develop curiosity, an open mind, and a desire for continuous growth.

I love learning but have, until now, focused more on the written word. But when you begin seeing conversations as learning opportunities, you can watch the world open up around you.


Old habits are hard to break, so you must consciously try to become an active listener. The good news is that the more we do it, the better we get at it, and the more positive our relationships will be.