“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” ~Ralph Nichols
Feeling truly seen and understood elevates our relationships to a deeper level.
In fact, a study from the University of California at Berkeley found that the act of striving to understand someone can actually improve the relationship. Demonstrating active listening during an argument or a difficult time leads to a greater sense of satisfaction. The effort alone shows that you care.
Ensuring that your loved ones feel seen and heard deepens the connection, so you both feel understood. This acceptance and validation is part of what makes understanding such a crucial part of sustainable relationships.
Here are five simple ways to make your loved ones feel seen and heard:
- Put away distractions.
Put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Put work on pause. No one feels like a priority when they can see you focusing on something else. You need to be physically and mentally present in order for someone to feel important. You cannot multitask someone’s emotions.
- Actively listen.
Pay attention to what they are saying and summarize it in your head. Make eye contact and mirror their sentiments with your body language and facial expressions. Use brief verbal affirmations like “I see” to let them know you’re still listening and understanding.
- Ask questions.
Asking questions serves as another step for active listening. Ask open-ended, non-leading questions when they state how they feel, or when you want them to open up and talk about something a bit more. Ask closed, follow-up questions to learn and gain clarification. These actions show that you’re listening and hearing them.
- Validate their feelings.
Now that you’ve heard what they’re saying and invited them to say more, make sure they feel accepted. Do not automatically jump into unprompted advice. Withhold judgment and suggestions, and instead, be attuned to their emotions. Reflect what you heard back to them so they know you were paying attention and understand where they’re coming from. Respect their vulnerability by validating how they feel.
- Follow through with actions.
Now, it’s your turn to do something about it. Did they bring up something you do that hurts them? Make an active effort not to repeat it in the future. Did they express feelings of loneliness or isolation? Show your understanding of their emotions by acknowledging them. This follow-through will let them know that you truly care for them and are being responsive to their needs.