How Active Listening Actually Improves Your Relationship

What actually happens when you actively listen, and how do you use that to grow with your partner?

man and woman talking Getty

What does active listening in relationships look like?

As I sit in my office while the rain comes down, I contemplate the complexities of human nature and wonder about relationships. 

Why do some have them naturally while others have to work so hard at them? And then there are those that have avoided them for decades because they are so emotionally painful

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What characteristics and actions create the differences? What can be changed or worked on for improvement? 

What would life look like if there were one skill that we could put into action in our relationships that would benefit all? What matters about this? What impact would this have? 

Active listening in relationships: what is it?

Wikipedia defines "active listening" as "a communication technique that is used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said."

Research shows that humans need a sense of belonging. This involves a sense of inclusion, empathy, and acceptance. 


One way to have this personal need met is to feel understood. 

Active listening is the mechanism that provides the feedback of being understood. 

Active listening helps you understand each other and feel accepted. This human, innate need, is met through dialogue.  

Each partner is present with one another, meaning that full attention is given to the other person, in each moment. 

Through active listening, your ego falls away without concern. Without ego, there's no judgment. 

Research also shows that people don't really understand something unless they can communicate it and understand it with words of their choice.

It's not always easy. It's a skill. With practice, you can develop this skill. One way of demonstrating this is to mirror back, paraphrase, and speak directly about the awareness of what the other is saying and feeling. 


This is the human connection in the communication process.

People communicate in everyday life but they are not always aware of their communication style, the understanding that does or doesn't take place, or the level of trust and intimacy that they build.

When you actively listen to your partner, you gain an awareness that's not possible with other ways of communication. 

When you understand what you hear, you become aware of your own beliefs, your own understandings, and you learn from the relationship. 

Actively listening provides you with a different perspective. This can open you up to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and releasing judgments that you may not have realized were there.


This is a beneficial change because when you communicate with judgment, you're not actually listening.

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What are the impacts of not listening actively?

When you don't communicate effectively or engage in active listening, you may risk trust and the relationship itself. 

Important people in your life may get aggravated and even leave at some point. Others may not have the motivation to enter into conversation with you. Others may leave you out or exclude you from the group. 

Poor communication can lead to reputation loss and character loss. As an individual, you may lose support and connection with others. 


Not listening well also leads to misunderstandings that can be difficult to reconcile and wastes time.

Active listening has the power to change relationships. 

With changes in relationships also come changes in people.  

When a person changes, the other person adapts to the change, reacts to the change, and/or responds to the change. 

When people are heard and understood, there is the potential for transforming any challenge in the relationship. People are encouraged to continue sharing. 

The relationship is now built on a strong foundation of trust. Trust supports the development of confidence. Confidence is gained in one another and the human needs of belonging and being understood are realized. 


What would life look like if everyone utilized this skill in all of their relationships? 

They would come together, in greater collaboration, problem-solve, and possibly overcome the challenges that exist in lives, families, communities, and in the world, at any time and any place. Active listening in relationships has this power. 

Why does this matter?


You'd be supporting the lives of your loved ones, business partners, peers, and friends. You'd be supporting your own life journey.

What impact would this have?

You'll realize shared respect, shared understanding, shared responsibility, and shared principles and values.

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Lynette Baker is ​​an Executive/Leadership and Transformational Life Coach with LB Coaching, LLC. For more information, e-mail Lynette or visit her website.