Tonight I will begin a multi-part posting about the art of listening. This is going to be great stuff! The best counselors will make you pay for this information, but since we are great friends, I’m going to go against the grain and give it to you absolutely free!!!
I will start with a short description on what listening is supposed to be. Next we will go into the 10 “Blockers To Listening” that most couples come up against during their marriages. I will define the blocker and give you an example, many of which you will already be familiar with since we use them all the time. Finally I will discuss why the blocker needs to stop and how you can make them go away. By the time we are done, you will have all the tools you need to put active listening back into your marriage!
Ready?? Here we go!
What Listening Is Supposed to Be:
It is hard to truly listen to your spouse all the time. We live in a busy and fast paced society where thousands of things are constantly fighting with us for what little time we have in our schedules. It is easier to zone out, or think more about your reply than what is being said, or to collect evidence to back up your own opinions, or even to pass judgment.
Yet listening is truly the most important communication skill you can develop if you wish to preserve and foster intimacy in your marriage. When you listen well, your spouse knows that you care for them and for how they are feeling. You stay on the same page as your spouse when you listen well.
Listening is a commitment and a compliment. It is a commitment to understanding your spouse better and to putting their interests and needs before your own. It is a compliment to your spouse because it says, “I care about you and I want to know what you think and feel.”
Real listening includes “intent”. If your intention is to understand, enjoy, learn from, or help your spouse, then you are really listening.
So now you know what true listening is all about. Now let’s learn about the first way you can block yourself from true listening.
#1 – MIND READING
You are Mind Reading when you disregard or distrust what your spouse is actually saying. Instead you are trying to figure out what he/she ‘really means’. Mind readers give too much importance to small cues such as tone of voice and facial expressions and not enough importance to the actual words being said and the emotions behind the words. They ignore the actual content of what the spouse is saying to them in favor of their own assumptions and accusations.
Mind reading is deadly to intimacy because it ignores the truth in favor of the imaginary. Here is an example of mind reading:
Husband says to wife: “I think you look fabulous in either of those dresses so wear whichever one you like the most.”
Wife thinks to herself, “He really means I’m so fat that I would not look good in anything so it doesn’t matter what I wear.”
The wife took an honest compliment, and by mind reading, distorted it into a vicious dig at her which never took place, yet it became her reality.
Clearly this needs to stop or else everything the husband says will ALWAYS get twisted around against him. Before long, the husband will stop talking all together and then finally, with no communication happening, these folks will find themselves on the road to separation or divorce.
What should the Mind Reader so Instead?
What the Mind Reader has to do is to communicate back to their spouse what they think they heard. So in this case:
Wife to husband, “So do you think I am too fat for either of these dresses?”
Husband to wife, “Of course not! You know I think you are beautiful. I believe that I just told you that you make either of those dresses look amazing so it doesn’t matter which you wear, you will be the best looking women at the party!”
There is no way to misconstrue these words. Obviously he husband thinks his wife is beautiful and he has made that clear. This is communication at its finest and it stops the Mind Reading in its tracks.
So the next time you or your spouse fall into the Mind Reading trap, just be sure to over clarify your meaning and before long the Mind Reading will stop all together.
Pastor Brad Komgenick