To be intimate with another person is to share mutual feelings of closeness with them—To know them deeply and to be deeply known. We generally share our greatest feelings of intimacy with those whom we feel the most trust, respect and familiarity; however, intimacy is not a givenin any relationship. It requires hard work and mindful participation from both individuals. While many people think of “being intimate” as something that happens solely between the sheets, true intimacy is so much more than that, yet so much simpler all at the same time. It starts with listening. While there are many natural born good listeners in the world, anyone—and we mean anyone—can be a good listener if they set their mind to it. All it takes is time, practice and the willingness to try. How do you know if you’re a bad listener? If friends and loved ones frequently tell you “you’re not listening” or “you just don’t understand,” then that may mean your listening skills are in dire need of adjustment. Why become a good listener? Well, as stated above, being a good listener helps to build true intimacy. Being a good listener helps you make others feel loved, known and understood—And can make you feel loved, known and understood in return. Being a good listener may help the depth and satisfaction of your most important relationships grow! Still not convinced? In a study done at Louisiana State University, communication experts Christopher Gearhart and Graham Bodie reported that students identified as being low in “active empathic listening” skills also scored lower in general social skills overall. In other words, a poor listener is likely to have lower emotional sensitivity and lower social skills in general, whereas a good listener is also a more empathic individual likely to be more well-adjusted and satisfied in their social life overall. Being a good listener is less about being amongst like-minded individuals or people who are exactly like us and more about being able to connect with people regardless of your superficial similarities with them. Honing this skill will reap great benefit not only in your personal life, but in your public life and career as well. Perhaps now that we’ve convinced you of the importance of being a good listener, we can move on to how. Below, we give you three ways to immediately increase your listening skills and become a more responsive, empathic partner and friend: 1. Be Vulnerable To be vulnerable means to open yourself up to the possibility of judgement, hurt, or failure. Being vulnerable while listening may mean sometimes listening to difficult things, such as ways we’ve let our partner down. It may also mean simply humbling ourselves to allow someone else’s story be in the spotlight for a time instead of our own. It may also mean honoring the vulnerability of another and understanding the bravery and trust it takes for either person to open up to the other. You can practice vulnerability in your relationships and in your listening by withholding judgement from your loved one. In these instances it is perfectly fine to say, “What you’re saying is really challenging me right now. Could you tell me more?” 2. Practice Active Listening Listening involves more than just hearing the words, and there are many signals we can send when we are listening to let the other person know that we are paying attention and are engaged with what they are saying. Eye contact is an absolute must, as is turning your whole body so that it faces that person head on. This is not the time to pick your nails, stare at your smart phone or doodle. A kind smile or a nod (whether positive in agreement or negative in commiseration) go a long way, as do light verbal cues such as “yes” and “I understand.” Bear in mind that you don’t have to be sharing each other’s deepest darkest secrets with each other in order to build intimacy. You can become closer with one another by simply sharing a funny joke, retelling something funny or frustrating that happened to you earlier that day or explaining a personal preference or opinion. Trivial small talk got you feeling like you just don’t care? These feelings may be worth examining on your own time, but they’re definitely not OK to show to the other person in the moment. Eye-rolling and sighing are huge intimacy destroyers. They’re also the opposite of being vulnerable! 3. Lean Into the Emotions Any one of us—male or female—may be prone to go into “fix it” mode when faced with a problem. Understand that true intimacy depends on so much more than having all the answers in the moment. We feel closer to others when we feel seen and heard. It’s OK to ask your partner what they need from you in any given moment. “What is it that you would like from this conversation? Do you need my advice or do you just need to vent?” It’s also OK to not have any solutions at all. It can be frustrating to see a friend or significant other in pain. The root of these feelings comes from the deep empathy you already feel for your partner. Instead, practice acknowledging the emotion being expressed and validating it. “Wow, that interaction you had with your boss seems to be causing you a lot of anxiety. It’s understandable that you would feel this way.” Validating your partner’s emotions lets them know that you care, that you understand and that you really feel for what they’re telling you. It also gives you free reign to be there emotionally with your partner without having to have all the answers—The good and the bad! Even better is when your partner does the same for you in return. Did this post speak to your heart or teach you something new? Alpha Hearts still has spots available to welcome new clients into our community! Email me if you’re ready to find the Connection, Love, Growth, and Support that will allow your inner self to fully shine and embrace all that your life has to offer you! Alpha Hearts supports your life’s journey with Numerology, Ayurveda, and Tantra. Did you love this post? Consider sending us a little love back! Visit here to donate to Alpha Hearts now!