Why the #1 Ingredient for Great Relationship Communication is Listening

Posted by Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC on November 2, 2021 at 4:00 AM
Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC

4 minute read

hearing vs listening in relationships

The number one way you can show your partner that you truly love them is to be present and emotionally available by listening. It seems simple, right?

Well, genuinely listening is much more than just active listening. Genuine listening is the very key to your loved one being seen, felt, loved, fully valued.  

So, what's the difference between listening and hearing when your partner speaks? It's a big difference.  

What's The Difference Between Hearing Vs. Listening In A Relationship?

  • Hearing is passive. When you hear your partner speak, you are in an inactive state and not fully present. Sounds are coming to you through your ears, and you notice them - that's all.  

  • Listening is a learned skill because it requires concentration, interpretation, and interaction. To fully listen to your partner, you need to be present at the moment.

In our busy world and with so much on our minds, it can be challenging to actively listen when your partner, co-worker, or family member wants to have a conversation with us. 

You may even be doing something else or thinking about something else when your partner wants to talk. Has it ever happened when your partner was speaking, and then you were asked a question, and you had no idea what they said for you to respond? At that moment, you weren't truly listening. You were hearing them speak. 

We all may be a little guilty of paying more attention to conversations we deem to be truly important and "check out" of some everyday conversations with those around us.

However, for someone to feel fully loved and seen, it's a good idea to practice being fully aware and present. It also helps you to become a great listener.

Four Tips To Become A Fully Present Partner Who Actively Listens: 

Becoming a Fully Present Partner

#1 - The Right Time. Is This A Good Time For You To Listen Fully? 

It's essential to determine whether you can give your full attention when your partner wants to talk. If not, let them know when you can speak. For example, you might want to say: 

  • "Can I call you back in 10 minutes? I'm finishing up this task, and then I can give you my full attention." 

If the conversation is going to take more time than you have, or you are not able to be there for them because of your mood or you're at work, it's ok to say:

  • "Today is a very rough day for me at work. I want to be able to give you the time you need. How about we chat over dinner tonight?" 

In this way, your loved one feels valued and understands it's not a good time now and knows when it will be. 

#2 - Focused Energy. Is Your Energy Focused On Your Partner When Speaking? 

  • When speaking face to face, do the following: 

    • Please put down your phone or any distraction

    • Turn off the tv or anything that takes away your attention

    • Be sure to maintain eye contact 

    • Use an open body posture by uncrossing your arms, turning toward your partner, and even leaning in slightly 

    • Validate and mirror back what your partner is saying 

  • When speaking on the phone: 

    • Eliminate any distractions

    • Go to a private location to talk

    • Make sure your cell service has good reception or set a time to call back

    • Validate and mirror back what your partner is saying

#3 - Put Aside Your Own Trouble and Avoid Interrupting. 

Allow your partner to speak to their completion. We often interrupt out of a need or desire to connect at that moment. We may even say things like:

  • "I've had that happen too!" 

  • Or, to show we're listening: "Really? Why would they do that?! That's terrible!"

However, you can connect deeper by showing your partner you're actively listening and using facial expressions, head nods, or acknowledging words - such as: "wow, yes, or right."  

Instead, imagine sharing an energy with your partner that corresponds to how you'd respond with words. For example, imagine your heart open and radiating love, care, or empathy to someone who feels upset.

#4 - Resist Mentally Rehearsing Advice You Feel Tempted To Give In Response. 

  • When you allow your mind to focus on the response, you get distracted and miss what is being shared with you.  

  • You may even be showing your partner that you're not with them and present at that moment.  

  • When you are actively listening, you'll be ready to speak when it's time. (See Imago Dialogue Below.) 

Imago Dialogue Sender Receiver

If you put these four tips into practice, you'll strengthen your ability to listen actively. Your partner and those you care about will likely notice the positive differences in your listening and feel more optimistic about conversations with you. You may be surprised to get a favorable response, as people can typically sense when someone listens to them. 

The more you practice being fully present, staying curious when actively listening to your partner and loved ones - you'll find your partner and loved ones do the same in return!  

If you're struggling with listening vs. hearing in your relationship, we are here to help with Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!  

Discover more about Imago with our Imago Professional MembershipImago Professional Facilitators, Imago Professional Training, and Imago Educational Webinars


Connect. Transform. Thrive.

Imago Relationships 


 Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC - Imago Relationships North AmericaThis blog post was written by Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC

Mara is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Master Certified Coach. She is also a Certified Imago Therapist and Advanced Imago Therapist. 

Mara's career has grown out of a gift of intuition – which she's been aware of since childhood – and a natural inclination for using that gift to help empower others.  Guiding and coaching feel as adventurous to her as the way she's lived her life. Born in New York City, Mara took European trips in her youth and has lived in England, France, and New Mexico in the United States. 

Mara believes the boldness and confidence she gained through taking risks and expanding boundaries have contributed to her personal and professional successes. She loves seeing the joy in her clients when they find the courage to challenge themselves and transform their lives as well.

Mara has been a perpetual student, always exploring her inner self by learning new skills and techniques that help her to understand herself, other cultures, and what it is that makes us human. She applies that learning in a way that enables her clients to live fully in the present, to face the challenges in their futures, and to live their dreams.

For nearly three decades, Mara has focused on methods that help her clients realize that they already have answers to their questions. Instead of letting them give their power to her because she can often intuit what is going on in their lives, she can help them claim their power and solve their own problems.

Today Mara serves clients all over the globe through telephone and email communications. Her approach with each individual is uniquely shaped by who the person is and by their circumstances and needs. Tools and techniques selected for each client come from the expertise she's built during her career. 

Check out Mara's website too! 


Topics: Healthy Relationships, Happy Relationships, Healthy Communication, Getting the Love you Want, Listening, Active Listening, Love, Healthy Love, Couples Workshop, Communication Skills, Better Communication, Communication In Relationships, Communication, Relationship Tips, Couples Communication, Listen, Listening Skills

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The Imago Relationships Blog features content from our team of professional therapists, workshop presenters and facilitators who are passionate about helping you discover a new way to communicate and love your life.

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