I try to practice “listening with intention” as much as I can, which is listening at a much deeper level than people normally do. This involves paying attention to the meaning behind the words that are being said, observing the speaker's posture and expressions, and even listening for words that are not being said.

We are all capable of “listening with intention,” but for most of us, it involves additional energy and focus. Therefore, is not something we use in everyday communication.

There are times in all our lives when we need someone to really hear us. Those we know best, such as our significant others and long-time friends can specifically ask, “I need you to really hear what I'm saying,” point out that, “This is important and I want to make sure we understand each other,” or even emphasize something like, “I don't feel you are hearing what I'm saying.”

When something like this happens, we often set aside whatever we were doing and dust off our best listening skills. But wouldn't communicating be so much easier if we were more in tune with what the people around us were saying on a regular basis? Wouldn't you enjoy it if your family members listened to you with intention, too?

In addition to implementing listening with intention in our day-to-day lives, we must also learn to give feedback to ensure we have heard and understood others correctly. This is more than simply repeating back the words of the speaker. It could consist of something like, “I can tell by your tone/see by your expression/sense by your emotion how important this is to you. This is what I believe you're saying/asking of me... Is this correct?”

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This allows for clearer communication and the ability to engage in additional dialogue, if needed, to better understand each other.

Listening and communicating are vital skills for any healthy relationship, but they are definitely ones we caregivers must use when interacting with our loved ones, family members, friends and even medical professionals.