From the time we were tiny tots, we were told to listen. “Put on your listening ears,” mom and dad often told us. Or “close your mouth and open your ears.” Listening seems like a simple thing to learn. As we go about the business of developing our listening skills many of us develop selective hearing as well.

Developing good listening skills is very important. Listening keeps us out of trouble and lets us know when we have done a good job. Listening keeps us informed of our surroundings and our lives. One of the most important skills in a relationship is listening to your partner. If your girl friend or boy friend, significant other, partner equivalent or spouse accuses you of not being a good listener, you better clean out those ears and listen to what they have to say. In addition to being a good listener is to be very good at understanding what you heard. Here are 5 ways to improve your listening skills.

1. Ask questions to make sure you understand:

Often times, what we hear and what is meant are two different things. That might be the number one reason we are accused of not listening. Making sure you are both on the same page is half the battle. But don’t question ever little thing that is said. Maybe a 5 word recap is enough to verify you are both on the same page.

2. Eliminate distractions:

Turn off the television, radio and phone if necessary and provide your undivided attention. Multi-tasking is a wonderful and useful skill but not if it compromises another skill such as listening. Clear your mind of your agenda and give your two ears’ to your partner.

3. Don’t interrupt:

But I thought you said ask questions to make sure you understand what is being said? I did. Let the speaker finish a thought before asking a question. Don’t cut the speaker off in mid sentence. It is not only a bit rude but it interrupts the speaker’s train of thought. And it tells your partner you really don’t care what they are saying.

4. Listen respectfully:

No matter how angry you might be, listen to what your partner has to say. Don’t tell them you know what they are going to say because until they say it, you don’t know. Don’t interpret what you think they mean. Let them have their say and respond in a civil manner. Don’t tell them you’ve heard it all before. Even if you have, just keep it under your hat.

5. Sometimes listening is all they want:

Unless your partner asks for advice or a response of some kind, just let them talk. It might be all they want to do. They just may have something on their mind and need to get it out. They may want a sounding board and not a resounding board. Listening to someone doesn’t always mean you have to respond. Sometimes a friendly nod or even a hug is all they really want.