Types of listening

Balanced Listening:
I generally listen quite equally to my own and my spouse’s points of view, taking both into account with pretty much equal weight.
Selfish Listening:
I often listen more to my own point of view, taking my views more seriously than my spouse’s perspectives.
Excessive altruism:
I often listen ore to my spouse’s point of view, taking that more seriously than my own, and suppressing my own views.

Bilaterial Listening: integrating your own thoughts and your spouse’s viewpoint into a balanced picture.

In a healthy relationship, both people balance listening to the other with listening to their own concerns, viewpoints and preferences. Both partners listen to their own thoughts and also to their partner’s, and respond to both with equal interest and caring.  They seek win-win solutions that take both of their interests into account.

Blocks to Effective Listening

Too often the listener’s intentions are contaminated by a block.

(Based on Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work)


Mind readers disregard or distrust what the other person is actually saying and instead try to figure out what they ‘really mean’.

Mind readers give too much importance to subtle cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and posture. They ignore the actual content of what their partner is saying in favor of their own assumptions and hunches.



You are so busy rehearsing what you’ll say next that you never really hear what your partner is telling you.  (Sometimes you may rehearse whole chains of dialogue: “I’ll say,  then s/he’ll say, then I’ll say….”  In this way, you might miss the deeper concerns of the speaker.)

There is a difference between
listening and waiting for your turn to speak.

– Simon Sinek

Filtering means that you listen to some things but not others.  You may listen for signs that you spouse is angry or sad or anxious and then tune out when you sense your spouse is OK and that you aren’t expected to respond to any emotional trouble.

Filtering may also be that you exclude things you don’t want to hear.

Judging means that you have stopped listening to your spouse because of some negative judgment, or that you only listen for the purpose of assigning blame and putting negative labels on your spouse.

Everyone’s mind wanders – sometimes.  Sometimes, you might stop listening and drift away into your own fantasies.

Your spouse barely has time to speak a complete sentence before you jump in with your advice. Your search for the right solution and your urge to fix everything deafens you to your spouse’s simple need to be heard.

You listen only to disagree, argue, and debate.  You take a position and defend it, regardless of what your spouse says.

This block protects you from hearing anything that suggests you are less than perfect. To avoid any suggestion that you are wrong, you will lie, shout, change the subject, justify, quibble, make excuses, accuse, or otherwise fight off criticism.

You change the subject or joke it off whenever the conversation becomes too personal or threatening.   By misdirection or humor you avoid listening to your spouse’s serious concerns.

You are too quick to agree.   You are so concerned with being nice, supportive, and agreeable that you don’t give your spouse enough time to fully express his/ her thought.

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