top of page

3 Simple Words that help you Connect while Listening

Updated: Jun 22

woman connecting while listening to her husband talk

Learning to listen and talk to another human being in a relational way is bit of an 'art' that takes a lot of trial and error to develop. Take my word on this, we've been practicing a LOT for many years, and we still screw it up sometimes. And we also muddle through it and repair well. And these three words help:

Acknowledge. Encourage. Hold.

This reminder has made a big difference in all of my relationships. But in my marriage, it's really helped me 'strike gold' more often. Not only does it increase our chances at connection and make 'repair' a lot easier, but it also creates the 'space' that's needed for my partner to courageously speak up and say more.  So let's break it down.

When someone comes to you and needs you to listen: 

1.Acknowledge - (their pain or upset). This is an ESSENTIAL FIRST STEP! And what you relay in words needs to also be heard in your voice and seen in your body language and facial expression to be most effective: lower your pitch and voice volume, lean forward a bit and gently say something like, "I can see how much this bothers/upsets you".

Anyone can do this. I don't care how 'guarded' you've been in the past, or how unskilled you are at it currently, I know there's a gentle side to your 'warrior'. Show it. It doesn't have to be 'gushy' or overdone. Use your own words and style. You're human. Just tap into that.

2.Encourage - (more sharing) with a question: "What about ____ was most upsetting? What happened next? What do you need from me right now that would help?" THIS IS AN ESSENTIAL SECOND STEP.  I know there's part of you that doesn't like to see someone struggle because you have a big heart. And the urge to instantly jump in and make a suggestion to help solve the issue can be powerful. But don't do it right away. It may feel counter-intuitive to not instantly offer a solution, but it's more about timing. Later (when / if they ask), you can offer your thoughts and suggestions. But if done too soon, it may unintentionally blow a chance at connection. So sit there uncomfortably, acknowledge what the person is experiencing, ask a few questions and then.....

3.Hold - hold, that semi-uncomfortable silence until the other person says more. And this may be the hardest part of listening. You will feel the 'urge' in your body to add value, make a suggestion, explain, defend or take up the silent space by saying something. Sit through it! Stay focused on the person and allow that wave to pass over you, knowing that in that space of semi-awkward silence, 'gold' is forming. 

Only when a question comes, is a person really ready to hear anything you have to say.

And that question may not come right away. Which means you may have to sit with a feeling of being misunderstood, helpless or concerned. The time will come for you to speak your part. But first, create the 'space' for the person who is sharing the grievance or distress. You simply sitting there quietly, attentively and patiently.... means you care about this person. And if the feeling of 'urgency' or discomfort inside you is intense, it may be worth some self-reflection to discover why that is. Remember...

You are still lovable even if you're momentarily misunderstood. And you still matter even if you can't offer a solution right away.

The 'open space' you are creating with your silence will do more for your relationships than filling it with words at the wrong time. It's possible the speaker just needs to vent. And although you may not see it, your willingness to attentively sit there in silence says:

  • I understand that it's hard to put words to what we're going through sometimes.

  • I'll sit here with you as long as it take because you matter to me.

  • You don't have to have an answer right now to be loved by me.

  • You don't have to always 'have it all together' to be lovable.

See? Lots of juicy stuff in that silent 'space'. It's even possible that you can't help or have no solution to offer even if they asked. That's okay. You don't have to have an answer for everything, to matter. 

If no questions come from the speaker after several minutes, if they don't ask for your input or if they end the conversation, simply say something like...

"Is there anything else you want to say? Let me know what I can do to support you" or..

"I'm here for you babe if you need me in any way" or ..

"if you think of anything more later, I'd love to hear it".

That way they know you care, even though you may have said very little in that first interaction. It may feel awkward, as if you didn't 'do' enough. Trust me, you listening, acknowledging, asking questions and your willingness to 'stay put' (even in silence), has more value than you'll ever know. 

PRO TIP - an extra benefit of sitting with this discomfort of 'holding' and not responding to the internal urge to speak, or 'solve the problem' that by doing this, you're developing your emotional activation threshold. Allowing this uncomfortable wave of 'urgency' to pass over you, is part of what it takes to sustainably moderate your own emotional state long-term. By allowing the wave, yet not responding to the wave, you're interrupting an old activation pattern and your nervous system is learning that 'no action is needed right now with this person'. Which means, with consistent repetition over time, the 'urge' sensation will decrease when you have conversations in the future. See how that works? Both people benefit from holding 'space'. 

So remember when listening to a loved one:

  • Acknowledge.

  • Encourage.

  • Hold.

I know you can do that!

I'm in your corner,



If you haven't seen it yet, our latest free class is up and available! our Core Values - What's most important in YOUR life? is less than 30 minutes long and comes with a workbook to help you quickly assess your 'signature' values or your guiding principles. I created it for you. So go get it!


And if you're someone who's drawn to simplicity, curious about being fully human and haven't joined the Connection Depot community yet, know that you are always welcome!

The Human Infusion Project is a grassroots, not-for-profit personal development platform that draws from the combined fields of modern brain science, applied psychology and spiritual philosophy. Our mission aims to augment and supplement the work of professional practitioners in simplified, practical ways, and to give clients an affordable home program they can use in between sessions. 100% of all online class profit funds the Wellness Assistance Grant. If financial constraints limit your participation, please contact me and we'll work something out.

30 views0 comments


bottom of page