The Most Important Relationship Skill: Do You Have It?

The Most Important Relationship Skill: Do You Have It?


I found this article the other day and thought I’d share it here.


For years I prided myself on being an excellent communicator. I built a previous career on an ability to express my feelings and be vulnerable with the people around me. While I was gaining recognition in the field for my relational art projects, my most intimate relationships were a source of tremendous confusion and pain. I spent year after year in couples therapy with different boyfriends trying to deepen our connection. Every few years a relationship would head south and I’d find myself scratching my head wondering what went wrong. Even after all of the therapy I was unable to see that my communication skills were seriously underdeveloped.

And then something shifted on my 29th birthday.

While on a silent meditation retreat in the deep woods of Oregon, everything came crashing down.

I had been practicing meditation for years, but I had never had a melt down like this before. I felt like a crazy person. I cried for what felt like hours, feeling everything I had been holding back in my relationship with my boyfriend. I knew deep down I was not communicating with him well and I saw how much fear was holding me back from truly being present.

I cried for what felt like hours, feeling everything I had been holding back in my relationship.

After hours of sobbing for all of the regrets I had about not being able to really show up for our relationships, I decided it was finally time to change.

And then I let it all go.

For the first time in years I felt light and open to transforming our partnership. I was ready to get back to Portland and finally learn how to communicate more effectively with my then boyfriend.

Even after diving right back into therapy, we didn’t last. We couldn’t. The road was just too bumpy. However, the beauty of our separation was that I was able to show up and be the woman who I could be at work and with girlfriends but was too afraid to be with him.

One of the main takeaways from that relationship was that I needed a major overhaul in my listening skills. It’s true that I was great at expressing my feelings and articulating my thoughts. But I was also a terrible listener. Every therapist I saw suggested a number of tools to help me learn how to listen well, but until the meditation retreat I was unwilling to put them into practice. I thought for years that I had listened well enough.

I was great at expressing my feelings and articulating my thoughts. But I was also a terrible listener.

Today, my current boyfriend and I are discussing getting married in the future. For a woman who was certain she would never settle down, this is a major development. It speaks volumes about the amount of energy I have put into learning how to communicate with my boyfriend. Really listening to each other has been at the center of our relationship.

When we learn how to truly listen to our partners and support them with our undivided attention, it builds lasting intimacy. This bond helps us withstand life’s ups and downs. True intimacy is based on understanding and creating a space where both parties are acknowledged and heard.

Over the years many friends and clients have asked me: What is the most important aspect of communication? I always say learning how to listen well. So, I’ve pulled together an outline that walks you through the stages of listening during a conversation with your partner. These are the tools that have supported us and will hopefully help you become a better listener too.

Do you really listen?

It’s natural during a conversation to tune in and out of what the other person is saying. We do it all day long. Most of us have a tendency to be a bit preoccupied with our own thoughts much of the time. This can be especially true if the conversation is emotionally charged. Over time, this lack of being fully present can disrupt genuine communication and cause harm to relationships.

Think about a time you tried to confide in someone and they were distracted or not really paying attention.

-How did that make you feel?

-Were you shut down emotionally afterwards or leave the conversation feeling badly about yourself?

-Did you want to talk to them in the future about something close to your heart?

Now think about a time when your partner wanted to share something important with you.

-Were you listening with an open mind or were you thinking about how you were going to respond?

-Was it challenging for you to sit still and give them your undivided attention?

-When the conversation ended did you feel closer to your partner and grateful they chose to share?

We’ve all been the person who wasn’t heard and the one who didn’t listen. Learning how to pay attention to our partners and listen with a desire to support and understand them is the glue that holds relationships together. Here are some tips for becoming a better listener.

Pay attention

Are you able to listen while distracted? Chances are, probably not very well. One of the most genuine ways to show that you are invested in your partner is to give them your undivided attention as often as possible. It’s important to make listening to your partner a priority if you want the relationship to last. Take a little time to set down your phone, close your laptop screen, and look them in the eyes when they are talking. These simple suggestions will improve the way you communicate quickly and your partner will feel heard and valued.

Don’t interrupt

When you allow your partner to talk without commenting or interrupting, it gives them permission to fully express themselves. Sometimes it can take folks a while to put their words together, especially if you’re having a difficult conversation. Try your best to sit and listen without interjecting. It’s natural to want to help and offer advice, especially when someone is having a hard time. If it’s difficult for you not to talk, try using non-verbal cues to let the person know you are listening.

Notice body language

While your partner is speaking, notice their facial expressions and gestures. Most of our communication happens through our body, not our verbal language. Watch your partner, and soak in as much information as you can about how they are feeling. These clues are going to give you a great deal of insight into how they communicate, ultimately building intimacy.

Get clear

When your partner has finished speaking, try paraphrasing what they said and repeat it back to them. This simple action shows you were listening. It also helps ensure there aren’t misunderstandings. If you are unsure about something, ask a clarifying question to understand your partner in a deeper way. Remember, this is about listening to your partner, not assuming you know what they mean.

Offer support

Lastly, ask them what they need from you. This is huge! Sometimes people want advice or an opinion, other times they just want to be heard and need you to be a sounding board. Let your partner decide what they need even when you think you know best! This is all part of building intimacy and really seeing who your partner is.

The key to listening well is being fully present. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh often says, “The greatest gift we can offer someone is our true presence.” Cultivating loving relationships begins with opening our hearts, minds, and ears to the person we have chosen to be with. Developing your listening techniques will be only help in all of your relationships moving forward.

If you’re ready for a challenge this week, experiment with a few of my tips for improving your listening abilities. Remember, learning a new set of skills takes commitment and practice. It’s not about doing it perfectly; it’s about showing up and being willing to improve. Start small and build from there—you will be amazed at the results!


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Tales of Rock: Steven Tyler Took Legal Custody Of The Teenager He Was Banging, May Have Pressured Her Into Aborting Their Child

While today he’s most recognized as a prettier, more flamboyant version of your grandmother, back in the mid-’70s, Steven Tyler was navigating the Aerosmith ship over the massive waves of success brought on by smash hits like “Dream On.” But Tyler wasn’t just in it for the fame; right around the time Aerosmith was hitting the big time, he reached deep into his heart to take legal custody of a troubled underage fan … so that he could have approximately all of the sex with her.

Julia Holcomb had a tragic past. Her father was a gambler with abandonment issues, she was a passenger in the car crash that killed her brother and grandfather, and her mother had a history of choosing less-than-stable stepfathers. So it’s understandable that, shortly after a 14-year-old (according to Tyler) or 15-year-old (according to her) Julia met Tyler backstage at an Aerosmith concert, her mother readily signed over custody to the rock star. And by “understandable,” we mean “completely irresponsible and totally nuts.”

But Julia’s mother wasn’t about to start making decisions that were in her daughter’s best interest now, and so the young teen spent three years living with Tyler, a skeletal sex wizard. As you may suspect, this arrangement did precisely nothing to soften the tragedies of her life. According to Julia, a profusely coked-up Tyler “convinced” her to have children with him by tossing her birth control pills off a balcony. Then, once she became pregnant, he took off on tour, leaving her all alone in his Boston apartment. Then the apartment caught fucking fire, with Holcomb barely managing to survive by crawling into a fireplace (which it seems was the last place the fire thought to look for her). Then, while she was in the hospital recovering, Tyler allegedly spent a full hour pressuring her to abort her five-month pregnancy (which, if you recall, was achieved in the first place by Tyler confiscating her birth control and casting it into the wind), finally convincing her by threatening to send her home to her mother. Having gotten his way, Tyler, riding a balloon of cocaine up into the stratosphere, sat down and watched the doctors carry out the procedure.

Holcomb went on to happily marry another man and become a mother of seven. Tyler went on to feature his teenage daughter in an overtly sexual music video.

Now, it’s important to note that Tyler’s version of events — namely, that Holcomb was a repeated-abortion-having sexual pincushion — was written with the intent of achieving bestseller status, while Holcomb’s version was published on a website with an obvious pro-life political agenda. So the whole truth probably lies somewhere in between. Still, when you’re placing someone on a scale from “massive douche” to “the black douche-hole at the center of the galaxy,” you’re really splitting hairs.


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