• Darrell & Robin MacLearn

Active Listening = Better Communication


Intentional Active Listening Date Exercise Overview

  • Dinner out (once per month)

  • One speaker – One listener (switch at end of first conversation)

  • Listener asks a question

  • Speaker answers the question giving as much detail as possible

  • Listener can only ask clarifying questions for deeper understanding

  • Listener practice the listening tips given in the deeper dive below

  • At the end of the conversation, the listener is to summarize the speaker’s answer to the question

  • Speaker confirms shared meaning or not and scores spouse on active listening skills


Strength Training Relational skills and abilities like conflict resolution and communication are the muscles that keep your marriage strong. They are the skill sets that when developed will strengthen your marriage.  Deeper Dive Most misunderstandings in relationships happen somewhere between the ears and the mouth.  Communication is about shared meaning not shared words. The problem is we spend more time talking or thinking about what we will say than we do honestly, intentionally, actively listening.


Here are 10 Tips To Intentional Active Listening

1. Intentional Body Positioning If you are in a public space like a restaurant position yourself strategically to avoid distractions and face the speaker.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate with someone distracted by people watching.  Effective communication requires your attention.

2. Intentional Distraction Removal Trying to communicate with someone distracted with a TV, cell phone, or book is like trying to hit a moving target. Put down the remote, the book, or the device and give your attention to the person trying to communicate.

3. Intentional Eye Contact Why do we tell our children, “Look at me when I’m talking to you” and then act like a child when our spouse is trying to communicate with us.  Eye contact is one of the most commonly understood principles of communication. Somehow our eyes and ears are connected.

Communication Stats 70-80% of waking hours in communication

9% – Writing

16% – Reading

30% – Speaking

45% – Listening

50% Forgotten information

4. Intentional Attention Paying attention doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen just because you look at someone.  Paying attention is a mental exercise of focusing the mind on what is being said.  Avoid your own mental distractions like your thoughts, opinions, or answers to what is being said or what you would like to say given the chance.

5. Intentional Questions When the speaker pauses and it’s appropriate, intentionally ask questions for clarity and understanding.  Remember your goal is shared meaning and to fully understand what the speaker means with the words they have chosen to use.  Be careful to not “hijack” the conversation with a question off topic.  Often times something will be said that makes you think of someone or something and all of a sudden the conversation has nothing to do with what the communicator was trying to say.  This happens a lot!

6. Intentional Feedback Give the speaker intentional feedback that shows you are listening.  The idea is to make statements about what is being said that gives proof you are hearing AND understanding.  Again the goal is shared meaning and it needs to be acquired and confirmed throughout the conversation.

7. Intentional Open-Mindedness Try to avoid passing judgment on what is being said.  A judgmental mindset compromises your ability to listen actively and honestly. Listen without jumping to conclusions.  The speaker is using words to communicate their thoughts and feelings and the only way to honestly know those thoughts and feelings is through listening. 

8. Don't Interrupt - Don't Impose When you interrupt or impose your solution or opinion you are saying…

  • I’m more important than you

  • What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant

  • I don’t really care what you think

  • I don’t have time for your opinion

  • This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest and I’m going to win

Children used to be taught that it is rude to interrupt…Still the case!

9. Intentional Empathy Try to feel what the speaker is saying.  To experience empathy, you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and allow yourself to feel what it’s like to be them at that moment. This takes energy and concentration and is not easy but makes a world of difference in effective communication. 


10. Intentionally Notice Non-Verbal Communication Non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice, facial expressions, hand gestures, eye rolls, & body positioning, all communicate feelings and emotions that are attached to the words being used.  In order to fully understand what someone means with the words they are using, pay close attention to what they are saying with their body language. Content and Tips for this post adapted from forbes.com

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