The last post shared thoughts on true connectivity. For this type of true connection to take place, you first need the time and space to connect. Couples can also benefit from the absence of some ubiquitous gadgets. For a true connection, another key is that both spouses should be active listeneners.
If you’re like many spouses, you hear your partner—sort of. You hear lots of words coming out, including requests to handle errands or tasks, or informational updates about the day. You may even hear some complaints or gripes or expressions of love or gratitude. While your spouse is talking, you are considering your response or planning what you are going to say next.
Even if our spouse is sharing his or her lifelong goals, we are often considering how those goals will affect us and our families. Or, maybe we’re preparing to offer them advice on how to attain those goals.
Most of us know at least one person who is an excellent listener. You may not even realize it at first, but you feel better about yourself when you are with great listeners, because they show so much interest in you, asking follow-up questions and responding enthusiastically to your good news. They are encouraging and will often call later to ask how something is progressing. When you are talking, they are very present and in the moment. In their listening, we feel we are being loved. Poor listeners spend a lot more time talking than hearing, and we often dread getting stuck talking to them for long.
Being present to our partner while really listening to him/her is a way we can show our love. It helps if we are not rushed or multitasking while trying to listen. (That’s why we may need to schedule some dedicated time for reconnecting.) We should refrain from making suggestions unless we are asked. Use eye contact. Listen to your partner fully; don’t interrupt. Ask questions to clarify, or rephrase what you are hearing back to them.
Active listening is not an easy skill, especially when we have trained our brains to be prepared and think quickly. I’ve heard several marriage experts say good listening could prevent many marital problems, including some affairs and divorces, by making spouses feel they are heard and understood. Relationships with children or friends can also improve when they feel we hear and understand them.
Does your spouse jabber on endlessly, or is he or she a great listener? Could you improve your listening skills or is it a strength? I’m listening.