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Some have said that next to our need for food and shelter, our next greatest need is to be understood. We all have opinions, desires, fears, and frustrations, and we want others to acknowledge them. That’s when we feel most connected to someone. That’s why the skill of listening is so important in any relationship. But there is a difference between listening and truly listening. A good listener has the right skills and also the ability to show that they understand the messages they hear.
“Listening” is suspending your own thoughts and feelings to enter the experience of another person.
Real listening is about validating and appreciating what your spouse is saying and trying to put yourself in their shoes. It’s really about taking an interest in your spouse and desiring to understand their perspective. When we feel heard this way, we feel affirmed as people, and that builds connection.
If being understood is a basic need for any person, why do so many couples fail to listen to one another?
Common Roadblocks to Listening
There are many reasons why someone doesn’t want to listen. Here are just a few reasons why some spouses don’t want to listen to and understand their spouses.
- Listening seems like a passive response and it feels like you’re accepting fault if you don’t respond. Some people spend time thinking of a rebuttal instead of listening to their spouse.
- One partner is always griping about something so the other doesn’t take any one thing seriously. They check out.
- Distracted spouses are easily side-tracked by other things like their phone or a show. They miss out on hearing what their spouse is saying.
- Transference issues. This is when you put your own meaning into what your spouse is saying so you hear what you want to hear, not what your spouse is really saying.
- We feel attacked when we hear criticism so we just shut down.
There are many other reasons why it can be hard to listen, but here’s the point: if you want to have a healthy marriage, then you can learn to be a good listener.
Listening Is a Skill Anyone Can Learn
Being a good listener isn’t a character or personality trait, but a skill that can be learned and practiced. Sharpen your skills with a few of these tips:
- Be attentive. No distractions. Listen so that you can summarize what you hear.
- Be empathetic. Really try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and see things from their perspective.
- Ask good questions. A good listener isn’t just able to repeat back what they hear, they want to understand it fully. This will require follow up questions to clarify and understand your spouse’s point of view.
- What were the highs and lows of your day?
- What are your biggest stresses right now?
- Rate your day on a scale from 1-10 (1 being awful, 10 being fantastic). What contributed to giving your day that number?
One of your spouse’s greatest needs is to be understood by you. If you want your marriage to be healthy and strong, then acquire the skills of being a good listener so you can truly understand your spouse.