Good communication skills in marriage begin with practicing good listening skills. All of us want our spouses to listen when we speak. How can we become better listeners, so we won’t hear “Can you hear me now, dear?”
Listen to understand
Learning how to become a better listener begins with avoiding the poor listening styles addressed in Listening is So Hard to Do.
Listen to your spouse the way they want to say it, not the way you want to hear it.
To understand the struggle my husband has had with anxiety, I want to learn how it affects him. Because I love him, I want to become a good listener.
A good listener truly wants to know the speaker. ~ John Powell
Psalm 22:24 shows us how deeply and attentively God listens to us.
The Lord doesn’t hate
or despise the helpless
in all of their troubles.
When I cried out, he listened
and did not turn away.
May I follow the Lord’s example in my marriage!
How to be a Better Listener
Understand listening is not the same as hearing.
Because I am hearing-repaired, I’ve grown accustomed to hearing without listening. It is easy for me to tune out conversations or distractions around me (like in a restaurant), since I have to intentionally focus on the one talking to me.
A rule Dennis and I TRY to follow is to avoid speaking to the other if we aren’t in the same room. Hollering to each other when we are in opposite rooms is irritating and downright rude. (Yet, we still catch ourselves doing it!)
“Hearing” each other like this has resulted in literally not understanding what the other really said. Now we know if one of us doesn’t respond, we must go to the other (in the same room) and communicate eye-to-eye.
Dennis’ Aunt Mary Alice used to say–in her deep Southern accent — “Do you hare me?” Not a bad way to express your need to be heard, huh?
2. Ask questions.
Often, we tune our spouses out when we don’t understand what they are trying to say. Some of us have a difficult time expressing ourselves in ways that can be understood.
I’ve learned to ask questions. Dennis has internal dialogues going on in his brain all the time, it seems. He has so many thoughts going through his head, he will say things out loud thinking I’ve been inside his brain. He’ll see me look at him in puzzling bewilderment, then get irritated that I don’t understand what he is talking about.
My questions go something like this. “Please tell me who/what you are referring to. I’m confused. Please help me understand.”
3. Listen to learn.
Marriage offers an educational classroom like no other. Couples who have healthy marriages decide to become students of their spouse.
No matter how much you think you know your spouse, or how long you’ve been married, there is always something new to learn.
Listening involves more than hearing words. It involves body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.
Listen not just with your ears, but with your heart.
Stop focusing so much on what you want to say. Instead, choose to hear your spouse’s heart. If it is unclear, use these statements:
- Tell me more.
- How does that make you feel?
- How can I help?
4. Disconnect to Connect.
If your eyes are glued to a cell phone, any mobile device or TV screen while your spouse is talking, Spacing Out or Pretending to Listen are poor listening styles you must avoid for better communication.
Men, according to Mark Gungor, have nothing boxes in their brains where they can space out and think of absolutely nothing.
Women have so many boxes in our brains, we wish God had given us just one of those!
See, I told you there is always something to learn.
When I want to tell Dennis something important and want to be heard, I’ve learned to put my hand on his arm or back.
And–this is important—WAIT.
It takes him a second– or two– to emerge from that sacred box. After he hits pause on the remote, or I think I have his full attention, this is my cue to speak.
For those times when you want to communicate and really want your spouse to hear you, ask this question:
May I have your eyes?
Wives, if you are like me, you can be working on a project or studying, and get interrupted by your husband. This idea works for us too.
Instead of words, offer a soft touch. It may help our brains to disconnect to connect.
The famous line from an old Verizon commercial, “Can you hear me now?” reminds us the importance of being heard. Practice these listening skills so you and your spouse will feel listened to.
What do you need to do to become a better listener?
How does your spouse make you feel heard?
What listening skills need improvement in your marriage?