The best relationship advice I can give is about making the effort to truly understanding each other. Most of us want to be listened to and understood but do we really listen to ourselves and to others? This is a real skill that can be learned and developed over time. It occurs most frequently and most effectively when we set time aside to really tune in to each other. Or in meditation, to ourselves.
1/ Reflect what you heard the other say -- To have the felt sense of being listened to and heard, it helps if the person doing the listing can paraphrase or reflect back in their own words what they heard said. This takes a stretch for most people, to be able to see the world from the other person’s perspective which is not their own. This is not about agreeing but understanding. This is not where we try to convince the other person to see it from our perspective. We need to have the view that we are both right. Neither of us is wrong we just have different points of view. We just say “I hear you saying____”
This is a process where we take turns. I listen to you with the hope that you will also listen to me. This is not the time where we give each other feedback or advice. We need to resist giving advice until we have confirmation that we understood the other and have their permission to do so. Unsolicited advice can feel very offensive. As Stephen Covey said and his book THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE. “Seek first to understand, then be understood”.
Being a good listener helps if were also curious about the other person. We can demonstrate this by asking open-ended questions. These are questions that can not be answered with a yes or no.
2/ Let the other person know how they make sense to you -- Not only do we want to be heard, we want to be understood. We want to be validated. We want to know that we make sense to the other person, that our logic is understood. We don’t need to agree with them but just let them know that we understand their logic and point of view. We can say “What you are saying makes sense because ____”. Knowing your past and/or your hopes and dreams for the future I can understand you at a deeper level.
3/ Empathize and have compassion for their feelings -- Empathy is very important as is compassion. This is where we listen with an attempt to understand what the other person is feeling. We can say “I imagine you might be feeling ___”. We always want to make sure that we did get it, so we ask ‘Did I get that?” and “is there anymore about that?”
Imago Relationship Therapy teaches what is called the ‘couples dialogue’ . That includes the tools of mirroring (reflecting), validation and empathy. John Gottman teaches that after a fight or a ‘regrettable incident’ when we have become calm, we need to set aside time to repair without getting into the emotional charge of the incident. We need to state each other’s position to the satisfaction of the other. Then we can say to the each other ”It makes sense that you would feel ___ and need ___”.
Only after we have understood each other can we make an attempt to plan for a better future.