What is Relational listening?

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Relational listening

In this brief guide, we are going to discuss relational listening, why it is important and how one can adopt healthier listening styles. 

What is Relational listening?

Relational listening refers to a type of listening style where there is a focus on what the person is saying, their emotions, and the act of listening to empathise and understand. 

In Thai style of listening you are not only listening to what is being said and the content but rather you are also listening to how the speaker feels about what is being discussed.

There is a direct and active effort to understand the emotions of the other individual and also experience the same feelings and understand things from their perspective. 

In this type of listening there is an unsaid focus on supporting the speaker and attending to their emotions closely in order to support them as well as to maintain a positive relationship with them.

The relational listening style is based on empathy which refers to the ability to understand the inner world of others, see things from their persuasiveness, and not judge them for it. 

This form of listening is a crucial aspect of  empathic communication which involves understanding and active listening.

Relational listening is an important component of the helping relationship but also a valuable tool in any work environment and in the social sphere.

Tara Eskesen for medium notes that relationships listening is a healthy and effective listening style overall however the only downfall being that the listener might lose their objectivity as the content is being shared due to their attachment to the speaker. 

For example, a therapist often uses relationship speaking and this is what can help deepen the relationship however, it is possible that the therapist can lose objectivity which can become a barrier to client’s growth. 

Why is relational listening important?

We will discuss the importance of relational listening based on various contexts.

In professional work settings

This form of listening is used in professional settings to encourage bonding and team building between members and can also be used by managers to coach and build positive relationships with their subordinates. 

For example, within a team- a manager might use relational listening to help an employee who is dealing with stress related problems which is affecting their performance at work. 

This kind of listening can help the employee feel valued and appreciated as well as supported which can encourage them to seek help and improve resilience.

In academia

This form of thinking in academics is mostly encouraged to help foster students to grow personally as well as professionally. Some teachers might use this form of listening to understand their students, counsel them, and coach them as well. 

In some cases, this form of listening is also used with parents who come to consult with teachers about their child’s progress.

In day to day life context

When we consider the day to day application of relational listening, it mostly has to do with an individual forming and maintaining connections and relationships. 

This form of listening proves to be helpful in helping one’s loved ones and friends, provide support for them, and help maintain a positive quality in the relationship.

What are the differences between Relational listening and Active listening?

Relational listening does include active listening whereas active listening does not necessarily include relational listening. 

Active listening is important for empathetic listening styles such as relational listening. Active listeners will use encouragement at appropriate times and without excess which encourages open communication so that the individual feels heard and acknowledged. 

Like active listening, relational listening also will include open body language that leans into the conversation. 

Relational listening will seek to empathise and will leave the speaker feeling understood and supported whereas active listening will leave the speaker feeling heard. 

How does Relational listening affect communication?

The relational listening style is based on empathy which refers to the ability to understand the inner world of others, see things from their persuasiveness, and not judge them for it. 

This form of listening can help improve the quality of communication and encourage problem solving, developing intimacy etc. 

Between romantic partners, relational listening can lead to positive emotions where the partners feel understood, and this can improve the couple’s ability to problem solve together in dealing with problems within the relationship. 

It can also lead to healthy dynamics between the partners where they feel appreciated and loved/cared for.

When parents and children engage in this type of listening, it can lead to developing healthier relationships between the two- parent and children. 

When parents engage in relational listening it can make the children feel like they are being heard and in effect make them feel like they are important enough to be listened to- this can have a positive impact on their psychological development. 

This form of listening is used in professional settings to encourage bonding and team building between members and can also be used by managers to coach and build positive relationships with their subordinates. 

How to develop effective listening?

Here are a few steps that you can take to develop an effective listening style of communication:

Pay attention to your body language

When someone is speaking to you, it is important that you are mindful of your body language when you face them and maintain eye contact. 

Another thing that you can do is to lean in towards the speaker rather than away and maintain an open posture instead of closed- like hands free rather than hands folded- these postures tend to signal people that you are open to what they have to say. 

You can also make it a point to nod along or give encouragement such as “uh-hms” or “Go on..” So that you can signal them that you are listening, these can be useful when the conversation is happening over the phone where they can see your body language. 

Be attentive, but relaxed.

The next thing that you pay attention to is how attentive you are to them and what they are saying. This does not mean that you are stiff and constricted but rather, relax your body and your mind and instead choose to focus on what is being said rather than focusing on other things. 

Mentally screen out distractions like the background, their accents, or mannerisms etc which you find distracting- let these small details go and listen to their message instead of being focused in your own internal world. 

Keep an open mind.

With an open body posture, your mind must also be open to their ideas and the message that they are trying to put across, this means that you will have to empathise first rather than respond to them. 

Empathising requires you to be non-metal and non critical of what is being sad and how you see them as a person. Even if you disagree with what they are saying, it is important that you listen to understand their point of view first before jumping into conclusions or responding. 

Don’t interrupt 

Being a listener means to listen rather than speak. This means that you have to be mindful of what is being said and at the same time, be mindful of how you respond to them. 

Make sure that you do not interrupt when they are speaking- let them get their entire point across and give them enough time to speak their mind. 

Interrupting them out across the idea that what they are saying is not important and that their ideas are not important. So remember that everyone has different styles of speaking- some might stall more, while others speak fast and clear. 

So give each individual a chance to speak their part and  take notice of how they talk and respond by giving them the time to speak as comfortably as they can and respond when you are sure that they have completely said what they needed to express. 

Don’t simpose solutions

Now, some people might speak to you to get some advice on a challenge that they are facing or to simply hear your opinion on the matter. 

In such cases you have to make it clear that your opinions are simply yours and it does not mean that they are the “right” ways of thinking or going about things. You have to make sure that you clarify that your opinion is based on your understanding and that it is perfectly okay for each of you to have different opinions. 

Another important thing for you to remember is that when you listen, do not focus on giving solutions or imposing solutions for their problems- sometimes people just need to be heard and listened to.  

So when it comes to solutions and advice, make sure that they are in a space to problem solve first rather than simply telling them your solutions. 

Reflect their feelings

If you are able to catch on what they are feeling from their words and their body language, reflect these feelings to them to help them understand that they are getting across to you clearly and that you are understanding them.

Reflect by saying something like “You seem stressed from all that is happening right now” or “What I am getting from you is that you are overwhelmed.” 

By reflecting their feelings, it can help the person speaking that they are getting their point across and that you are empathising with them.

Clarify to understand 

Ask questions between pauses to only clarify what they are saying so that you understand their position or their experiences. 

Make sure that the questions are not suggestive or leading them, instead clarify that you simply want to understand their experiences before asking questions that help you make sense of what they are saying and for this you use open ended questions that includes- “What. when, how, where, why.”

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we have discussed what is  evaluative listening, how you can deal with an evaluative listener and adopt healthier listening styles. 

Frequently asked questions related to “Evaluative listening”

What is a superficial listener?

Superficial listener is able to hear what you are saying- the content of the message- but is unable to understand the point you are trying to make- make complete meaning out of it. 

What are some examples of barrier listening?

Various barriers to listening include:

  • Judgement
  • Focusing on counterargument
  • Distractions
  • Day breaking
  • Personalising everything that is being said by the speaker
  • Being overly critical
  • Making assumptions. 

What is critical listening?

Critical listening is a form of active listening with concentration and effort to discern what i s  being said as well as the added effort to analyse and judge what is being said to develop an opinion of the message being shared.

References

Schilling.D. 10 Steps To Effective Listening. Forbes. Retrieved on 1st March 2022. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/?sh=3c26762b3891

Esken.T. What Type of Listener Are You?. Medium. Retrieved on 1st March 2022 https://medium.com/mind-cafe/what-type-of-listener-are-you-71de658bfeb9

4 Types of Listening to Master Relationships. 314e. Retrieved on 1st March 2022. https://www.314e.com/blog/4-types-of-listening-to-master-relationships/

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