One of the most common issues in marriages and relationships is the issue of communication. Maybe you can relate to one of the following sentences:
We just don’t communicate.
He doesn’t understand me.
I don’t understand him.
It seems like we are speaking two different languages.
He never communicates.
The funny thing is, we are communicating all of the time. Communication is just as much about what is actually said as what is unsaid. It’s in our tone, our assumptions, our agendas, our actions and our non-verbal cues. Not just the words that come out of our mouth.
And in my opinion one of the most important key to great communication is LISTENING.
You probably think you are a good listener. And although many times you may be multi-tasking, you hear what your husband says and can restate the main points of much of what he tells you. I always thought I was a great listener until I heard a recent talk on the subject by Dr. Neha Sangwan. There are several levels of listening that go by a variety of names. Quickly, I’ll share the gist of it with you here.
The 1st level is closed listening where you really don’t want to hear what the other person has to say. Been there, done that. Had that argument before and not interested in having it again. You’ve probably already made up a story in your own mind about what he’s saying, and nothing will really change your mind. You’re probably not giving your full attention, nor making eye contact. It’s not listening at all.
The 2nd level is listening with your head, where basically you are listening only to make your point and counter what the other person is saying. You are gathering together your thoughts in response to what he’s telling you and do not pause long enough to consider the message he is trying to convey. I will admit for myself (and you), guilty as charged.
The 3rd level of listening is listening for information. You are paying attention, and may be gathering facts that will inform or answer some question. In our home this looks like making plans or listening to the details of each other’s day.
Now, here’s where it gets good, so pay attention.
The 4th level is listening with your heart. This one struck me the most. Here you are listening to what is being said for the purpose of connecting with what your husband is feeling. What are the emotions behind what he’s saying, even if he can’t articulate them himself? Listen for emotions like sadness, frustration, confusion, overwhelm, disappointment, loneliness. Ironically, these are often the emotions that we women feel when we are in conflict. He feels them too and is expressing them to you, if you can just listen. So to do so, constantly ask yourself and get ready to hear what he is feeling.
This will require you to slow down, give your full attention, and put your own agenda aside. What’s also effective is to play back what you heard before you actually respond. You can say something like, “ok, I hear that you feel…” or “it seems like you are…” or “I’m sorry you feel…” In listening to my clients and for myself, sometimes that’s all you want the other person to say. The simple acknowledgement of what you are feeling makes a world of difference. The funny thing is that it would make a world of difference to your husband too – even if he doesn’t ask, or is aware that it does.
The 5th type of listening is listening for what he values or cares about. If you are arguing about money, perhaps what he’s really trying to communicate is a worry or fear that you won’t have financial security when you need it most, or that it’s important to him that your family have all of the things you really need, even if that means you forego some of the things you want right now. Listening for what he values, will also require that you be patient, and open to receiving what he’s sharing. You do not take offence or focus in on what you are feeling, but tune in to him. Then play it back.
So, I know you may be asking, “But what about me? What about the times where I just want to be heard?”
You certainly are entitled to your time too. But the problem is, in marriages and relationships where you are not listening to each other, where the communication is poor, one person has to make the first step in turning things around. It’s likely that you’ve build up a lot of baggage over the years, and that when you and your husband come to any conversation, there is a lot of background noise in your head and his head based on past experiences, upset, disappointment and frustrations. In those times, it’s really hard to listen and it’s hard to be heard.
What’s really important there is to begin to unpack your bags, get rid of the resentment and other issues standing in the way of the relationship with each other you both want. And it can start with you.
I know deep down you want a relationship with your husband where you are communicating effectively, where you argue less and really enjoy spending time together. Where you feel heard, appreciated and cared for. And you deserve that.
Let’s talk about how to get there. This month, I’m offering a FREE Marriage MakeOver Coaching Session. It’s 30 minutes on the phone. Me and you. You’ll tell me what’s happening, and I’ll share some simple strategies to help you. Learn more about this FREE Marriage MakeOver Coaching Session HERE.