The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. Taking the time to listen and understand can communicate love and respect sometimes more than our spoken words. We need to feel heard and understood to create the safety of intimacy. Learn to develop an attentive attitude willing to listen with your heart with the desire to understand before being understood. Here are five things your can do to help you listen better.
“There is a difference between truly listening & waiting for your turn to talk.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Stop Talking – You cannot listen when you are talking. You will only be thinking about your response instead of paying attention to what the other person is trying to say. Consciously focus your attention on your spouse. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13
- Be patient, Don’t interrupt – Allow plenty of time for your spouse to convey ideas and meaning. Be courteous and give them the adequate time to present the full message. “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” – Proverbs 21:23
- Don’t Get Mad – Try to keep your own emotions from interfering with your listening and empathy. When anger and frustration is high, there is a tendency to tune out your spouse, become defensive, or want to give advice. You don’t have to agree to be a good listener. Don’t argue, because, even if you win, you lose. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,slow to speak, slow to anger” – James 1:19
- Empathize With Them – Try to walk in the other’s shoes so you can feel what that person is feeling and understand the point of view your spouse is trying to convey. You have to get to understanding before you can ever get to agreement. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2
- Relax, Smile and Pay Attention – Look at your spouse and help them feel free and safe to talk. Look and act interested. Remove distractions: turn off the TV and electronics; close the door; stop what you are doing, and pay attention.