Have great dates by being a better listener

Stacy Hubbard. LMFT

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If you want to have better dates you can use the skills that curious people/ great listeners employ by asking open-ended questions such as, “How would you like your life to change in the next five years?”

The point is to ask questions that deepen your understanding of the other person. Try asking, “If you had all the money in the world, how would your life be different?” Asking this sort of question, you’ll find out something deep about the other person.

Open-ended questions have stories for answers—and layers of meaning within those answers that can help you understand the heart of who your partner is. Asking an open-ended question shows genuine interest in the other person’s life and inner world. These are great questions to be thinking about when you are heading out to a date. Remember to be interested in the other person!

More About Being a Better Listener

When asking open-ended questions, it’s also important to be an active listener. Active listening means making eye contact, nodding, and attending to whomever you are talking to rather than paying attention to your phone or any other distraction. Asking follow-up questions can help, so if they say they really like their job right now you can ask, “What is it that you like most about it?” or, “What is it about your job that feels most rewarding to you?”

Use the bulleted questions and statement below to spark follow-up questions and further the conversation:

· What is the best thing about this?

· What is the worst thing that could happen?

· What is it that you like about this?

· Tell me more about that.

When asking open-ended questions, it’s also an excellent opportunity to empathize with the speaker’s feelings. If they say they are overwhelmed and anxious about an upcoming work project, you can say, “That sounds really tough,” or, “It makes sense that you’re feeling anxious.” Expressing empathy in this way also serves to validate your conversation partner.

Remember, asking open-ended questions and sharing empathy is a skill you can use in dating as well as with friends and family.

Sample Questions:

1. What is your favorite movie? What do you like about it?

2. What kind of meals do you like to cook? Why?

3. Have you traveled much? Where is your favorite destination?

4. What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?

5. What adventures would you like to have right now? Why?

6. If you could travel anywhere right now regardless of money, where would you go?

7. What was the best vacation you have ever been on? What made it so great?

8. Tell me about the best year of your life. What made it so great?

Guidelines for Being a Great Listener

When a partner, date or a friend is sharing their pain or their joy with us, it is an opportunity to connect and help them feel seen and heard. Empathy and validation are at the heart of being a great listener. These things do not mean placating, agreeing, or determining if something is true from your perspective. Every feeling is valid from the other person’s perception. The pointers and guidelines here will help you become a better, and perhaps even great listener!

Listen to their story without inserting your own at this time. If they are talking about how hurt they are by a co-worker betraying them, don’t automatically insert a story about you. Instead, keep listening and allow this time to be about them. If you have something to vent about when they are done venting, then you can say, “You know, if you feel heard I’d love to talk to you about my stress now.”

Show genuine interest.

Make eye contact. Nod along and say, “Uh-huh.” Ask questions to deepen understanding. Some of these questions might be: 

· What’s the hardest part about this for you?

· How do you feel about this?

· What are your concerns?

Don’t give unsolicited advice.

This is not the time to try and solve their problem or to give advice (unless they request it). Use this time to try and fully understand them.

Communicate understanding.

Verbalize understanding. For example: “How frustrating! I would be stressed out, too,” or, “I can see why you feel that way.”

Don’t take the enemy’s side.

If the person venting is angry or upset with someone, don’t take the side of their “enemy.” Even if you agree with the enemy’s position, instead empathize with your partner’s emotions. Focus on what they are feeling, not what they are perceiving.

Validate emotions.

Let the other person know that their feelings make sense to you by saying, for example, “Yes, that is really sad. I would be worried, too,” or, “I can see why you’d be annoyed about that.”

Hopefully this can help you gain some skills and tools for being a better date, better friend and a better partner in the long run.

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I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Southern Oregon. I am a certified Gottman method therapist, treating couples with high conflict, emotional disconnection, infidelity, & addiction.

Talent, OR

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