Listening to You

In our blogs about communication (also known as communication 1 & 2), we examined using the I word, and using validation. Now we need the hardest part—listening. It would seem logically that speaking would be easier than listening. However listening requires hearing & understanding. When we listen to what people say we are validating and communicating an understanding of what they are saying.

When communication goes awry, people don’t hear. They react, and then their partner reacts to the reactions. The result is conflict. I find it amazing and fascinating to watch how couples communicate in my office–they do not hear what their partner is saying.

Let’s look at how this goes:

P1: I’m having a hard time at work, the boss is really driving me crazy
P2: You’re having a tough time, all you do is talk on the phone all day, how could that be a problem?
P1: Well all you do is going to meetings, how could that be hard, to sit down, and fall asleep!!!
P2: Fall asleep?…………….

you know where this is going………………………..

Let’s put some listening in this:

P1: I’m having a hard time at work, the boss is really driving me crazy
P2: I hear you, my job is stressful.? I just feel lots of pressure
P1 I think we both are pretty stressed, but I think my boss is crazier!!!
P2: You’re right!!!

ah much better………………………….

In the second example, partner 2 does not react to partner 1. Partner 2 listens and understands, and doesn’t play the “can you top this” game. It leads to a shared moment for both. Now you’re gonna argue with me about this and say if you got screaming kids and aerobic dinners, there’s no way to have this conversation as nicely as you outlined it. I would say, that you are totally right!! The time to have this conversation is not around the screaming kids–it’s necessary to have this conversation after the kids are asleep, in that very delicate window between pre-coma and coma. Couples need to listen and understand and validate and communicate with each other on a regular basis. They need to share the daily business of the day, the scheduling, the coming events. They also need to share their feelings? about day to day things and about meaningful things. They need to have richness and intimacy in their lives. So their relationship can be this:

Listening to you I get the music.
Gazing at you I get the heat.
Following you I climb the mountain.
I get excitement at your feet!

All of these feelings come from communication–speaking, listening, sharing, understanding. This is very doable stuff, but takes lots of hard work and practice. The rewards are greater than the risk, but listening is the key ingredient. From the couples that I’ve worked with, the improvements that they made gave new life to a relationship that was going the wrong way. Ultimately the partnership that was put together with communciation was long lasting and fulfilling. How can you do that with your relationship?


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