Relationship Skills

Family Resources on Listening in a Relationship

Project and Purpose

Good listening is important in all relationships, but especially in intimate relationships. Students will practice improving listening skills in the context of intimate relationships.

Essential Questions

How can improving listening skills lower stress in an intimate partner relationship?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students learned about effective listening within an intimate or romantic relationship. In class students participated in an exercise to practice listening to another person and discussed how people in romantic relationships can improve their listening skills with their partner. Students discussed what good listeners do during conversations and applied this to a romantic relationship.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

Often poor communication results from poor listening and many adolescents lack practice in listening skills which can lead to poor communication in romantic relationships (or any interpersonal relationship).

Conversation notes:
Developing good listening skills takes practice and understanding, this lesson focuses on listening skills and then helps students apply those skills to romantic relationships.

Dianne Schilling’s article “10 Steps to Effective Listening” was published in Forbes

Article by Dr. Lisa Firestone about listening in an intimate relationship

Constructive Conversation Starters

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

What are some of the things that a good listener does (and does not do)? Why is it important to apply good listening skills to romantic relationships?

How do you rate yourself as a listener? Why do you rate yourself as you do?
How can your skills as a listener enhance your satisfaction within a relationship?

What else does someone need to do in addition to listening well in a romantic relationship? Does good listening alone make for a quality relationship? Explain why or why not

School to Home Resources on Entering Adulthood


  • Deck of playing cards
  • Paper/writing instruments
  • Poster or slide with listening skills points from Forbes Magazine (see below)


Review and restate session norms. These should remind students how to interact and communicate respectfully. Essential question should be prominently displayed.
[1-2 minutes]

Activity 1

Using your knowledge of students pick two students to stand in front of the group back to back. Give one the deck of cards and ask one student to draw five cards and say the names of the cards (both number and suit) in the order that that student drew them. For example, “5 of clubs, king of spades, 9 of diamonds, 3 of hearts”. Then ask the other student to repeat the cards back. Keep that pair of students up and have another pair of students come up to do the same thing, this time the student reading out the cards in each pair will tell their partner the cards they drew at the same time. Ask the listening pair in each group to tell back the card their partner read one at a time. The goal should be that having two people talk at once makes it harder to listen. If you need to make adjustments such as lengthening the number of cards or having three pairs try at once go ahead.

Ask students:

“Is it harder or easier to listen when there are distractions?”
“Is it more stressful when one person is not (or cannot) listen well?”

[5-6 minutes]

Activity 2

Now display the listening tips from Forbes.
Discuss with students the following:
A 2012 Forbes Magazine article listed several things that good listeners do:

Face the speaker
Maintain eye contact
Be attentive but relaxed
Keep an open mind
Try to picture what the speaker is saying
Try not to interrupt (unless something is said that you don’t understand)
Wait for a pause to ask questions and only ask clarifying questions Listen with empathy

[4-5 minutes]

Reflecting questions for students

  • “The list from Forbes was originally written for business situations. Which tips from the list do you think are most important in an intimate partner relationship?”
  • “Why is it important to listen in a caring, intimate partner relationship?”
  • “What are some ways that you (or give examples of ways you) could improve your own listening skills to make you a more caring partner in an intimate relationship?”
  • Have students take time to answer questions and write down their thoughts. Ask students to share out and discuss. The facilitator may need to read student responses and make comments so that students’ comments remain anonymous.

[5-10 minutes]

[Optional Activity]
Bring a pair of students who demonstrated the card communication activity from before (or a different pair of students) to the center of the group. Instead of having students stand back to back, have students face each other and use the Forbes listening list above while doing the exercise. See if students are able to remember and repeat back cards better (there should be improvement).

[5-10 minutes]

Activity 3

  • As a group ask students to brainstorm a list of non-sexual situations where a couple may have a stressful conversation. Examples could include:
  • Choosing an activity for a date.
  • Doing something with friends one partner does not like.
  • Wanting your partner to meet parents/family.
  • (avoid potentially relationship ending situations such as cheating, or wanting to date someone else)
  • Once students have developed a list of several appropriate situations, create groups of 2 or 3 using your knowledge of students.
  • Assign each group one of the stressful relationship situations from the list they created. It is okay if more than one group has the same situation.
  • Ask groups to create and write down a short dialog using their stressful relationship situations (the dialogs may only need to be a few sentences, but should be interactive between two people).
  • Once each group has had a chance to write their dialogs, each student group wil act out their dialogs twice. The first time they will recite their dialog standing (or sitting) back to back. The second time ask students to face each other and use as many of the Forbes listening tips as they can.
  • Facilitator should be able to use these dialogs to discuss how good listening skills can help lower stress and increase understanding in an intimate relationship.
  • Use the list of good listening skills from above as a guide to facilitate questions as students share dialogs.

[20-30 minutes]


Debriefing questions.

  • “What listening skills do you need to improve in listening to your partner in a relationship?”
  • “How do better listening skills help de-stress and/or avoid anger in an intimate relationship?”
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