EmunaDating: How to listen with your eyes

By Samantha Hulkower
So far in our discussion of how to improve our character traits to date more successfully and make ourselves better partners in marriage we've mentioned how to be more sensitive and how to improve our communication skills. Another invaluable skill that helps not just with your personal life but also professional is listening. Listening is paramount for a successful relationship - if a partner feels like they are being heard, it's an easy way to diffuse tense situations, and can often prevent getting into such situations in the first place!

Being a good listener sounds easy, but it really isn't. Next time you're speaking with someone, notice if while they are talking you are actually listening and considering what they are saying, or if you are actually busy thinking about what you want to say in response. Very often, when people are talking, a conversation can quickly turn into two people just waiting their turn to speak. It's at times such as these that we are likely to miss important things from the other person - things that can lead to miscommunication or just a general sense that the other person doesn't care about what they have to say. It can be as dramatic as the person you are talking to looking at their phone while you are talking instead of at you, or as simple as being able to see that the other person is waiting until you pause to jump in and add what they think. In any case, knowing that they aren't really listening to the words coming out of your mouth is inevitably going to make you feel unappreciated or not valued. Let's look at how to make sure we can make the other person feel heard.

We know from the Torah that listening is an important middah. After all, the Shema which many Jews say at least twice a day begins, "Hear Israel." A better translation than hear is listen. Listening is different than hearing - hearing means you register what is being said, but it doesn't mean it penetrates you. Listening is a much more active form of the verb. Listening conjures the image of being at attention and really paying attention to what is being said. It's more than just words though - it's also body language. When they respond that things are "Fine," but have their head down and arms crossed, you can be fairly certain things aren't good. So, listening involves not just the ears but also the eyes. 

Part of listening is also keeping your mouth shut. As the saying goes - you have two ears and one mouth because you should say half as much as you hear. Often, when someone is upset, they aren't looking for you to offer solutions - they just want someone to listen to what they have to say. Here are some key tips for making sure you are really listening:
  • Make eye contact
  • Focus on what the person is saying without thinking of responses
  • Wait until the other person is finished talking before responding.
They sound like simple steps, but they are harder than they seem and more important than we appreciate. 

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