I was a really bad listener for a very long time, and truth be told, so was my wife. We sucked at just listening. We often became irritated, or even angry at each other before we got a chance to get to the point.
Looking back, I realize there was a simple, yet not immediately obvious, reason.
You surely can relate to a situation where your loved one starts a conversation, telling you something that seems like it’s troubling them. You get the feeling they want your help and advice.
And then you are rejected. Here’s where things went wrong many times with my wife and me. See, my first reaction when I hear someone telling me about their problem is to jump into a let-me-give-you-a-solution mode.
When my wife got irritated, I was puzzled. I thought “I’m just trying to help. Why did you start a conversation in the first place, if you don’t want to hear what I think?”
Most of the time your partner just wants to be heard.
We all want to be heard, and sometimes we just need a sounding board. We need someone to simply listen, say, “I understand” and maybe tell us that everything is going to be okay. Many times we are not looking for a solution. Not just yet.
So this is what I do. And it’s insanely simple.
When my wife starts explaining about an issue that bothers her, I continuously override my first natural reaction. That is, to start talking about how would I approach the issue. Instead, I shut up and listen until my wife is finished.
When she pauses, I pause too. Then, I ask her this:
“Is this a listening conversation or help-me-fix-it conversation?”
It may sound funny and indeed, sometimes we both laugh about it. Which is a good sign. It’s also a great starting point for a deeper conversation, when the person you’re talking to opens up and tells you more. That’s helpful, especially if you have a history of starting a conversation on the wrong foot.
Why is that?
- You’re letting the other person to talk and be heard, without fear that they will be interrupted.
- You are showing your partner that you can put yourself into their shoes and empathize. Many times this is exactly what your partner is looking for. Because probably their subconscious already knows the solution. They just need to hear it out loud from their own mouth.
- You are proving yourself as a good listener, instead of a self-oriented jerk.
- You are showing in action that you actually care for the other person’s feelings. That you are there for them.
The last time I let my wife unload the burden from her chest without interrupting, she turned to me, looked me in the eyes and said “Thanks.” When I asked “Why?” she said, “Thank you for listening to me. I feel better now. Also, you made me think and I know what I’m going to do now.” It was a little connecting moment, and I did absolutely nothing (except for listening).
Sometimes all we need to do is to be there and listen.
Think about that.
In it, you’ll learn how to
- Hear what your spouse is saying without overreacting or jumping to conclusions (and be heard by them too)
- Be crystal clear in the messages you send (with or without talking)
- Speak more from the best in you—both to your spouse AND children
Check it out here: How to Communicate Your Way To A Better Marriage (Talking Optional)