Listening to others can improve your relationships and your holiday season

Hallie Fox

Illustration by Hallie Fox

As we delve deeper into the holiday season, we are reminded of an important theme of the season: the value of love in close relationships, especially family. During this time, have you ever asked yourself how we make and maintain these loving connections between family and friends?

Listening to each other helps us establish and strengthen those loving relationships.

Miscommunications can be avoided by actively listening to each other. Learning all you can about another person can help improve relationships, which can be achieved through careful listening.

It is important to listen to each other in order to learn who someone really is, create stronger relationships with the people in our lives and understand different perspectives to avoid conflict.

The December Bark survey found that 78 percent of Redwood students think listening can strengthen all kinds of relationships, but only seven percent said they always listen to someone who is talking to them.

As a Redwood community, we do not pay attention to the people around us as much as we should.

Our community can be made stronger if we are attentive and actively listen to each other.

If you’re talking to someone, would you prefer them to stare off into the distance, thinking about their weekend plans, or for them to be looking you in the eyes and responding to what you say, whether it be with a simple nod or a, “Yeah, I agree?”

According to the Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado Boulder (CRC at CU Boulder), active listening is a type of communication in which a person attends to and responds to another person to help improve mutual understanding.

We should actively listen to our friends, family and peers in order to strengthen the relationships with the people in our lives. Many times when a person is “listening” to someone, they are not actually paying attention to what the other person is saying, but instead are thinking about what they are going to say next.

We must alternatively listen to each other actively and let the other person know we are truly listening to them.

The CRC at CU Boulder writes that in active listening, the listener should fully attend to the speaker by repeating back to the speaker in their own words what they heard.

Active listening allows for the speaker to feel understood, thus improving communication, a key factor in relationships, according to the Love and Communication Health Research Center at California State University at Long Beach.

Active listening commonly allows for people to open up further in a relationship because they feel more comfortable, strengthening the connection within the partnership.

Listening to the people around us helps us learn who they are.

Fully and carefully listening to another person allows for you to get to know them on a deeper, more personal level. Employing active listening skills and paying attention to the emotion behind people’s words can help you encourage a person to open up to you.

The listener in active listening should interpret the speaker’s words in terms of feelings and add into the conversation these interpretations, according to the CRC at CU Boulder.

This includes using empathy statements like, “So, I gathered that you feel frustrated,” and, “I understand now that you feel upset about this.”

By using these statements, you can make the speaker feel empathized with and acknowledged.

These statements let the speaker know that the listener was not only listening, but also understanding the emotions behind their words.

It is important to listen to each other in order to learn new perspectives. Learning new perspectives is important to avoid conflict and to gain more exposure to how other people think.

The same Bark survey found that 70 percent of Redwood students believe that it is very important to learn and listen to other people’s perspectives.

Additionally, 62 percent of Redwood students think that listening to others’ perspectives can help avoid conflict. When we listen to people with different perspectives than us, we learn the reasoning behind those attitudes.

Once we understand their reasoning, it is easier to coexist with people of differing viewpoints because even if we do not agree with their opinion, we understand why they hold that opinion.

When you have a holiday dinner with your family this year or when you are conversing with a friend at a holiday party, try being thoroughly attentive to them.

Try to see if you can pick up on the undertones of their words and the true meaning behind what they say.

Use an empathy statement or two. When your mom opens the handmade present you sloppily wrapped for her, smiles and sheds a tear, hit her with a, “Mom, I can see you look happy. I am really glad that my appreciation for you shines through in this gift,” to see if you can add to her happiness just  a little bit more.