I hope you have received help through this series. I have enjoyed writing it, but I am concerned that I am not focusing on what’s most important right now. I don’t want to miss the fact that life has shifted for everyone of us so quickly. Many people are hurting right now. Some couples are scared and worried about their future and their families. There are many couples grieving due to loss. Everything has been turned upside down in only a few short months. How many of us have seen so much change so quickly. Even for those who have not been hit hard, it’s still be shocking and thrown us off in some way. The reality and gravity of the situation has still not been fully grasped. But I do know one thing, we need each other more than ever at this time. We need to be CONNECTED.
This opening brings me to my topic for this week. How can we practice listening to improve our relationships? I fully believe that learning to listen is one of the most important skills a couple can build. Most couples I work with have a listening problem. In fact, I think we all do! I would never leave myself out of that group. Some couples have even said about their spouse, “He/She doesn’t listen to me.” Have you ever heard that? I have definitely thought that a few times. In most of my relationships I have thought that at some point. Sorry Mom, Dad, friends, and family! But it’s true. If we are honest with ourselves, we would say at some point in our lives we felt unheard. If most of us have felt unheard, then the opposite is true: It’s likely most of us have not listened well at times also. If you KNOW that you are not so good at listening, or maybe you just want to learn how to listen better, let’s dig into how we can all PRACTICE being better listeners, especially in this time of change and unpredictability, so we can increase CONNECTION.
My 4 tips to listening can help all of us connect better in our relationships and decrease negative interactions. During this tough time, emotions may run high. Increased stress, hurt and pain may lead to quick reactions. Unfortunately, all to often, we are unable to stop these quick reactions. It is more important than ever to learn how to avoid these negative interactions, otherwise we double our pain and stress.
- My first tip: Remind yourself that your spouse loves you and has REAL, UN-IMAGINED emotions that have a reason! I can’t count the times I have told my wife, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I disregard her feelings all together when I say that. If you think this thought or say this to your spouse, then you have your first sign that you are not listening. So, assess your tendency to disregard your spouses reality.
- My second tip is to TUNE into their feelings and the meaning behind their feelings. This step requires a little practice. It may help to practice even when you are alone. Say to yourself, “They have feelings and they are important. I need to understand them. Be curious and ask them to help me understand their meaning.” I try to repeat this phrase often. It’s not a full-proof method to decrease reacting out of defensiveness or disregarding someones feelings, but that old cliche keeps coming back to my mind, “Practice makes perfect.” Tune into your spouses feelings by intentionally seeking understanding.
- My third tip is to KNOCK OUT DEFENSIVENESS. Ahh, I have a boxer mindset. My way of boxing is to wait and sneak in a DEFENSIVE jab or two. I will go on the offensive at times, but usually after the other person swings first. I am the defensive one in my marriage. My wife asks, “Are you breathing?” My reaction: “Who me? Why would you think that? I was just over his smelling some flowers and being all innocent and stuff…” Okay, that is a little exaggeration, but you get my point. How do you feel when you are trying to explain how you feel and they defend themselves instead of listening to you and not attempting to understand you? THEY DON’T CARE! THEY ARE MORE WORRIED ABOUT THEMSELVES THAN HOW I FEEL! And you might be right! Or, they might be fearful or feeling attacked or they just don’t want to upset you. Unfortunately, their missing you. They missed the whole point. They had a chance to connect with you and help you build their trust in you that is longed for. Yet, you chose to defend yourself instead of put aside your own concerns. Remember: Defensiveness is NOT LISTENING. Knock it out by taking responsibility for where you messed up even if you don’t FEEL like you did. Apologize and tune in to their feelings. You will be surprised at how close the connection becomes once you do that. Defensiveness is distance. Listening is connection.
- Finally, my fourth tip is to MAKE TIME to go deep. Sometimes we are “too busy” to stop and hear our partner. We have the time right now, at least some of us do. Make time to ask how they are doing. Then listen! Ask tough questions. Then Listen! Be intentional to get off your phone and start a conversation. Then LISTEN! Then make it a habit to do this at the same time, or times, every week. I assume you get my point.
With our world turned upside down, now may be a better time than ever to turn your marriage back right side up. Don’t waste this time! Don’t waste the opportunity to fix things while you have more time. The world will get back moving again, probably sooner than we think. It already is in some ways. Don’t regret intentionally taking the time to learn to listen and connect to your spouse.
If you want to learn more about listening, visit this PAGE.
If you want to read the other blog post in this series, here is the first POST.
If you want help with your relationship, please call me at 706-955-0230 or CLICK ON THE ORANGE BAR AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE TO SET UP AN APPOINTMENT OR FREE 15 MINUTE CONSULT!