How to be an active listener when your partner needs you

Transform your relationship with active listening. Improve communication and truly be there for your partner.

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Being a better listener when someone needs you is an important part of any healthy relationship. Unfortunately, it’s not something that’s taught in school. We know we need to listen, but most aren’t sure how to do it effectively. 1 2

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to become a better listener. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of active listening and provide tips for honing your skills.

Are communication problems getting in the way of your relationship? Learn how effective communication can help create and maintain a strong bond with your partner.

Active listening definition

Active listening definition

Active listening is listening carefully and attentively to what your partner has to say. Instead of just hearing the words, you’re being mindful and truly understanding the message they are trying to convey.

When you actively listen, your partner will feel heard and understood. This will help foster a more trusting and deeper connection between you.

Active listening is popular because couples who use it tend to have a stronger bond and are more satisfied with their relationship. Because when someone listens and understands, it eliminates any misunderstandings that could arise. 3

This type of listening requires full engagement and focus. And it takes practice. But it’s a skill that can be learned.

Discover how active listening can unlock the true potential of your relationship. Learn effective techniques to improve communication and deepen your connection.

13 ways to be a better listener

13 ways to be a better listener

Being an active listener may initially sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips that can help you become a better listener, especially when your partner needs you:

1. Make eye contact

It goes without saying that you should look at your partner when they are talking. Eye contact shows that you’re engaged and paying attention. 4

Knowing that you’re focused on them will make your partner feel more comfortable discussing their feelings. This opens the door for more honest communication. 5

Looking to build intimacy in your relationship? Find out how eye contact can be a powerful tool to connect on a deeper level with your partner.

2. Ask follow-up questions

This is a great way to show your partner that you’re listening and interested in what they say. Asking questions shows that you care and want to understand. 6

Questions don’t have to be complicated. They can range from a simple “why?” to more open-ended questions like, “What did that experience teach you?” Asking follow-up questions will help keep the conversation going and encourages your partner to open up.

3. Repeat back what you heard

Rephrasing is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you’re actively listening and paying attention. It helps ensure that both partners are on the same page and understand each other. 7

This technique can help you better understand your partner’s perspective and feelings. Even if you disagree with their point of view, rephrasing what you heard can help create a sense of understanding between you.

4. Avoid multitasking when listening

It’s hard to actively listen when you’re distracted. Multitasking is popular because people think the brain can do more than one task at a time. But you lose even more focus when you try to do too much. 8

When you’re talking to your partner, stay focused on the conversation. Put away your phone, turn off the TV, and avoid any other distractions that take your attention away from the conversation.

5. Avoid interrupting

Interrupting your partner is a surefire way to make them feel unheard and invalidated. It’s important to let your partner finish what they have to say before you offer your response.

Giving your partner the space to express themselves without interruption can help them feel more comfortable and secure in your relationship. This will help create a better environment for open communication.

6. Don’t offer advice unless asked for it

Unless your partner specifically asks for advice, it’s best to avoid offering your opinion, and this can make them feel like you’re not listening to their problems. If your partner wants advice, they will ask for it.

Offering unsolicited advice often results in the opposite of what you intended—your partner may not feel heard or understood. They may even start to feel like you don’t take them seriously. 9

7. Give your partner space

Sometimes, it’s best just to let your partner talk and not offer any response at all. The beauty of active listening is that it’s not about providing a solution; it’s about being there and understanding.

Giving your partner the space to talk without interruption or judgment will create an environment of safety and trust. This is invaluable to any relationship, and your partner will appreciate it.

8. Show empathy

Active listening also involves showing empathy. This is when you try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand their perspective. 10

Being empathic is especially helpful when you’re partner is distressed, as it can help them feel supported and comforted. Empathy is a key element of active listening that allows couples to connect on an emotional level. 11

Explore the importance of empathy in relationships and the role of emotional intelligence. Learn how to develop and enhance your empathetic skills.

9. Be patient

Active listening takes practice. It may feel cumbersome at first, but you can hone your skills with time and effort.

The most important thing to remember when practicing active listening is patience. Don’t get frustrated if it takes a while — keep practicing and be patient with your partner.

10. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Non-verbal cues are just as important as verbal communication. Pay attention to your partner’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

These non-verbal cues can tell you much about how your partner feels. The more attuned you are to these cues, the better you’ll be able to understand and support your partner. 12

Want to master the art of reading and using body language to express love and affection. Learn practical techniques to deepen your connection with nonverbal cues.

11. Show appreciation when your partner is finished

When your partner is done talking, express your appreciation. This can be as simple as saying “Thank you” or “I appreciate you sharing this with me.”

Showing appreciation for your partner’s willingness to open up and share their feelings will make them feel supported and valued. This is an essential part of active listening.

12. Follow up with your partner

After a conversation, it’s important to follow up with your partner. This could be just checking in to ensure they’re doing alright or even texting them to let them know you care.

Following up lets your partner know that you were listening and that their feelings matter. This kind of support can be invaluable in any relationship.

13. Practice, practice, practice

Active listening is a skill that can take time to master, and the key is just to keep practicing. It may not always be easy, but it’s an incredibly valuable skill that can help strengthen and maintain any relationship.

If you want to be a better listener and supporter of your partner, active listening is the way to go. You can become a great listener and build a lasting connection with your partner with practice and patience.

Active listening is an important skill for any couple to master. Following these tips can make you a better listener and create a stronger bond with your partner. Learn how other effective communication in relationships can strengthen bonds and foster deeper connections with your partner.

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  2. Rogers, A., & Welch, B. (2009). Using standardized clients in the classroom: An evaluation of a training module to teach active listening skills to social work students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 29(2), 153-168. ↩︎

  3. Rogers, A., & Welch, B. (2009). Using standardized clients in the classroom: An evaluation of a training module to teach active listening skills to social work students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 29(2), 153-168. ↩︎

  4. Frischen, A., Bayliss, A. P., & Tipper, S. P. (2007). Gaze cueing of attention: visual attention, social cognition, and individual differences. Psychological bulletin, 133(4), 694. ↩︎

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  6. Yeomans, M., Brooks, A. W., Huang, K., Minson, J., & Gino, F. (2019). It helps to ask: The cumulative benefits of asking follow-up questions. Journal of personality and social psychology, 117(6), 1139–1144. ↩︎

  7. Weger, H., Bell, G. C., Minei, E., & Robinson, M. J. (2014). The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions. International Journal of Listening, 28(1), 13–31. ↩︎

  8. Madore, K. P., & Wagner, A. D. (2019). Multicosts of Multitasking. Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science, 2019, cer-04-19. ↩︎

  9. Fitzsimons, G. J., & Lehmann, D. R. (2004). Reactance to recommendations: When unsolicited advice yields contrary responses. Marketing Science, 23(1), 82-94. ↩︎

  10. Decety, J., & Jackson, P. L. (2004). The functional architecture of human empathy. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 3(2), 71–100. ↩︎

  11. Brown, C. L., West, T. V., Sanchez, A. H., & Mendes, W. B. (2021). Emotional Empathy in the Social Regulation of Distress: A Dyadic Approach. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 47(6), 1004–1019. ↩︎

  12. Sabatelli, R. M., Buck, R., & Dreyer, A. (1982). Nonverbal communication accuracy in married couples: relationship with marital complaints. Journal of personality and social psychology, 43(5), 1088–1097. ↩︎

Author picture of Amy Clark
Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

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