Marriage Counseling Self-help

Advanced Communication Skills

abe kass

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

abe kassProfessional Therapist Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

Young couple discussing about problems in their relationship

Advanced Communication Skills to Build Understanding and Closeness Between You and Your Partner

Skillful listening is essential to building a close, happy and healthy relationship. When you listen skillfully, giving your partner your full attention, it is greatly appreciated and valued.

We all want to be understood and known by those with whom we are close. This exercise will teach you the skills needed to connect emotionally with your partner and fulfill his or her needs to be understood and known.

As well, the closeness built through skillful listening contributes to a healthy sexual relationship and a stable and long lasting marriage.

When you are a successful Listener and you connect with what your partner is saying, your partner will feel cared for and loved. This connection is like giving your partner an emotional massage and builds emotional intimacy and trust.

Note: The person sharing an idea or feeling is the Speaker. The person working to understand the Speaker is the called the Listener.

You may want to print this exercise for ease of use. Click the Print button at the bottom of this page. From there you can also format this exercise into a PDF file or email it to a friend. Note: Printing from a computer works best.

The following are expert listening skills to be used by the Listener

1. Summarize — shows you are listening:

After listening for a minute or two, repeat in your own words what you heard the Speaker say. You are not to agree, disagree, explain, or make any personal contribution to the statement you heard.

In order to be a great Listener you need to set aside your own agenda and completely hold back from making any points, correcting the facts, or introducing your opinion. The only exception is if your partner directly asks for your opinion or thoughts. If you are asked for your opinion, then you become the Speaker and your partner becomes the Listener.

For example, here is how to start your Summarizing: After listening to what your partner says you can say, “What I heard you say was…” and then summarizes what you heard. Then ask, “Is that what you said?” If the Speaker says, “no,” just let him or her restate the message until you get it right. 

The summarizing pattern by the Listener is to be repeated many times until the Speaker is completely finished talking.

2. Curious Questions — shows you care about the Speaker, that you are interested in what he or she has to say:

There are three types of questions

  1. Leading Questions
    These are the kinds of questions lawyers frequently use get somebody to make a statement that promotes their agenda. Example, “Didn’t you know pulling the trigger might kill someone?”
  2. Decision Questions
    This type of question is asked in order to know what to do. Example, “Would you like one or two cookies?”
  3. Curious Questions
    This is a question that is used to learn more. Example, “What made you feel that way?”

When connecting emotionally with your partner you are not to use Leading Questions or Decision Questions.

You are to use Curious Questions (#3). Curious Questions are used to encourage a personal and satisfying exchange of thoughts and feelings. Curious Questions are simply asking questions for the purpose of learning something new!

3. Validate what the Speaker says — this tells the Speaker you respect what he or she has to say:

This part of effective communication informs the speaker that you acknowledge that he or she makes sense. You don’t need to agree necessarily, although you may. You can say something like: “Hearing what you say makes sense to me” or “Looking at it from your point of view, it makes sense to me why you feel the way you do.”

4. Understand Feelings — shows you understand how the Speaker feels, this is what is most important to the Speaker:

After doing the above 3-steps:

  1.  Summarizing what the “Speaker” tells you.
  2. Asking Curious Questions to learn more.
  3. Validate your partner’s feelings, make the following concluding statement:

“After hearing what you have said I imagine you must be feeling…” Then add a feeling word like, ‘angry,’ ‘worried,’ or ‘loved.’ You complete this statement based on what was previously spoken that you think describes how the Speaker feels or felt. Then you ask, “Is that how you feel or felt?” The ‘Speaker’ either acknowledges the feelings that you are suggesting are correct or replaces them with a more accurate feeling word. You then summarize as explained above.

Note: Here are a few examples of feeling words:

  • Happy
  • Angry
  • Elated
  • Sad
  • Energized
  • Hopeless
  • Resentful
  • Proud
  • Jealous
  • Excited
  • Worried

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