Relationship Tips for a Happy Marriage Part 25: Listen – Really Listen
Skilled and active listening is one of the most powerful tools of communication in marriage. Being a good listener, has little to do with not talking too much. In fact, active listening is not an innate skill but rather something that every married couple has to cultivate. Everyone can learn how to be a good listener.
Listen first, think later
What goes through your mind when your partner is speaking to you? Do you begin preparing your response way before they are done with their first sentence?
Interfering thoughts can stop you from hearing and understanding what your partner is saying. When communicating with your partner, learn to put your defensiveness aside. Trust your partner and acknowledge that he or she loves you and would never do anything to hurt you deliberately.
Listen with your body
Proper listening requires more than just your ears. If your wife or husband says to you “we need to talk”, that is your cue to stop what you are doing and give them your undivided attention. Make eye contact with him or her and lean forward to convey your interest in what they are saying.
Clarify what you have heard
Seeking clarification is what separates active listening from regular listening. When you set aside your defensiveness, you are able to hold your response until you are sure you understand what your partner is saying.
Ask questions beginning with “So you are saying …” until you are able to reflect their message. Remember, you may not agree with it but you do need to understand it.
If you still don’t understand the message after a few questions beginning with “So you are saying …”, do not hesitate to dig deeper. To avoid giving the impression that you had rehearsed your questions and responses before hand, you can say “Are you saying…?” or “Do you mean…?”. These questions will help you see things from your spouse’s point of view and improve communication in marriage.
Your partner’s feelings are always valid, whether or not you agree with them. You should never or dismiss them as this could be taken to mean you do not care about your partner.
Seek to understand his or her feelings and he or she will be open to you. This will give you an insight into what makes them happy. Needless to say, understanding how to make your partner happy is the basis of a happy marriage.
Find something that you agree on
Marital communication should not be turned into a debate. Debaters listen to find something to disagree on. However, in marriage, your goal should be to find something that you both agree on. Acknowledge what you agree on before going on about what you do not agree on.
Once you have accurately restated your partner’s feelings and ideas to the speaker’s satisfaction, you can respond. By this time, the initial emotional charge has dissolved and you can speak calmly. Choose your words carefully and use body language as well.
Note that your response doesn’t have to include advice. When someone is just venting, it is okay to listen to them without offering unsolicited advice. On the other hand, don’t just sit there silently; clarify what they are saying, validate their feelings and empathize with them. After all, this is the basis of good communication in marriage.