There are very obvious signs that signify your partner's active listening abilities, such as displaying positive body language: facing the person talking, physically leaning in to the conversation, and maintaining eye contact (only if physically able, of course). A partner who is a good listener will also wait their turn to speak instead of interrupting or speaking over their significant other. And a partner shouldn't get a gold star for learning to be quiet while their significant other speaks — that should be the default setting of every respectful partner.
But honestly, all of this anti-vocal fry ridiculousness really cements how badly people want to shut women up and claim it is simply impossible to listen to us utter a damn word. The problem isn't the way women speak; the problem is how we are socialized to understand the feminine voice. As numerous feminist writers have already pointed out, revered male speakers like Ira Glass and Noam Chomsky also possess the ever-so-hated vocal fry, yet no one has written any thinkpieces about how detrimental their speaking patterns are to the success of the male gender.
Demand to be listened to, and demand loving partners who want to listen to you. Keep an eye out for these signs to know if you've landed a partner who celebrates your voice:
1. They Let You Take Your Time
Partners who are good listeners will also be extremely patient. Speaking up about an upsetting problem or story is nerve wracking and exhausting, and you can't help but stumble on your words and lose your train of thought. Good partners recognize and empathize with this struggle, and won't rush you to speak faster than you need to. As Jane Adshead-Grant, author of Are you listening or just waiting to speak? writes, "...when
we know we are being attentively, carefully listened to, we relax, feel
‘safe’ and are able to open up in a more eloquent and interesting way.
This is one of the reasons why a good listener, by saying nothing, can
really bring about great conversation." Plus, listening to you should never be a chore; it's a fundamental part of any relationship.
2. They Ask Questions
When a partner asks questions about whatever you are sharing, it means that they are actively engaged in the conversation. Not only do their questions encourage you to divulge important emotions and information you may have withheld for fear of oversharing, but their desire to clarify your statements means that they don't want to miss out on any details. You may end your story with, "And I was really upset." An actively listening partner would then ask, "Why did it upset you?" — forcing the conversation to go deeper. Also, it's human to lose focus or become confused, so there is nothing wrong with a partner asking you to repeat certain information to correct themselves.
3. They Aren't Judgmental And Don't Fear Discomfort
Whether you are confronting your partner about an issue in your relationship or sharing a difficult story from your past, you have to feel safe and respected in the conversation. Your partner creates the conversation's climate by how they choose to listen to you. While your partner does not have to agree with or feel particularly comfortable about the subject matter, good listeners will control their discomfort and refrain from judgment in order for you to ~speak your truth~. A loving partner may even handle that discomfort by remaining silent, allowing you lots of room to speak — and silence doesn't have to be uncomfortable or awkward.
4. They Don't Check Their Phones
If a partner is invested in your words, then they have no business checking Instagram or texting their roommate back about the WiFi password. It all boils down to being present and avoiding distractions. While a partner could try to defend their behavior by claiming multitasking skills, a good partner doesn't need to prove their multitasking abilities when you are communicating. As Paul Sacco, PhD, told The Huffington Post, "Good listeners really put everything down and focus on [the person in front of them]."
5. They Paraphrase Parts Of Your Story As You Speak
6. They Don't Derail The Conversation
The term "derailing" often arises when a marginalized voice is silenced by someone else (an often non-marginalized person) who forces the conversation to get off track by sharing unimportant, unrelated personal anecdotes and ~feelings~. For example, a white person may derail a conversation about race by interrupting a black person with stories about "all their black friends" and a man may derail a conversation about feminism by proclaiming #NotAllMen.
Derailing can also occur in more intimate conversations when a partner immediately becomes defensive during conversations instead of just listening to and learning about your point of view. As psychologist Paul Donaghue told The Huffington Post, " ...when we're defending, we're not listening." The entire conversation becomes about your partner's hurt feelings instead of your valid concerns. Partners who are good listeners will take in your words, even if they are critical, for the health and strength of the relationship.
7. Their Goal Isn't To One-Up You
8. They Don't Anxiously Wait For Their Chance To Talk
Fools who do this are exactly like the one-uppers, except they aren't even trying to beat you at anything — they just want to talk. We've all been guilty of this in various conversations throughout our lives (because let's be real, we all love talking about ourselves), but with partners and close friends, we better try a little bit harder to shut the hell up. Because we've all been this person, we know that when we spend the whole conversation waiting to open our mouths, we aren't actually present and listening to the other person. If your partner is an active listener, they aren't going to seemingly space out during your heartfelt anecdote about Broad City because they want to discuss something #irrelevant.
9. They Don't Interrupt And They Shut Up About Vocal Fry
It bears repeating.
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