I can’t solve my partner’s problems. Even if I’m sure I know what they should do. And my partner can’t solve my problems, no matter how much I wish they could. Can you notice the ways you try to get your partner to “fix” you? Are you aware of the times your partner is making you responsible for their problem?
We can help and support each other. We can learn to listen. We can listen so well that the person we are listening to is better able to work out his or her own solutions. Here’s a simple mnemonic to help you listen: AGE – Acceptance, Genuineness, Empathy.
Acceptance. Instead of listening too often we are actually judging, evaluating, comparing and debating. Supportive listening behavior requires that we accept what we are hearing. We listen, knowing that as the speaker talks they begin to find their own clarity, their own truth. Even if the speaker says something we believe is wrong or misguided, listening with acceptance will help the speaker more than correcting, teaching or telling about the listener’s beliefs and opinions.
Genuineness. There is very limited support that comes from listening because we “have to”, or we “must”, or we “should”. Support comes when we genuinely show up, prepared to be attentive and present.
Empathy. Often the way most of us “feel” supported is when we experience the listener’s empathy; their ability to “share” the speakers feelings. Sympathy is caring about someone else’s feelings; empathy is about feeling your version of their feelings – allowing yourself to, as they say, walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins.
One tip for being in a great relationship is to support our partner to find their own best solution to their own problems by listening with Acceptance, Genuineness, and Empathy.