At any time, one of the most important parts of communicating is listening well. There is No Price Too High in learning to communicate well! This is especially true during the holiday season, when family and friends come to visit and the joy of gathering together can cause tensions to run high in your marriage as you are Blending Christmas Traditions.
Here are five quick tips to listen well, now and throughout the year!
#1 Give focused attention. This means focusing on the person with whom you are communicating, not grunting over your shoulder as you play another round of Angry Birds. Look away from whatever screen has your attention and FOCUS! Sometimes, when I'm working in my office at home, I'll be right in the middle of writing and Sherry will need to talk to me. We have worked out our own "code" which works well for us: If I'm in the middle of a thought and need to finish my writing I will simply ask her to "please stand by". This lets her know that if I turn away from my work at that moment it may be lost forever as my train of thought derails. Work out your "code" beforehand to avoid conflict later!
...listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Proverbs 7:24
#2 Listen with acceptance and understanding. In Proverbs 4:7 Solomon tells us that "in all your getting, get understanding". It is impossible to work through conflict and better understand your spouse without listening to understand. What's really at issue here is the position of your heart. Are you listening just so you can respond? So that you can make your point? If you are simply trying to "win" the discussion or get only what you want, you are not really concerned about what your spouse has to say. Check your motivations and ask God to reposition your heart. Then, once you can hear to understand, be accepting of your spouse's ideas and opinions. You may discover that his/her ideas on how to handle a certain situation may even be better than yours!
#3 Ask clarifying questions; make summarizing statements. Ask questions like "Are you telling me that ____?" or "Can you tell me more about what you meant when you said ____?" so that you know you understand. I can't tell you the number of times in the past I have walked away from a conversation with Sherry thinking I knew what we were talking about. Only to find out later that I may as well have been a thousand miles away since our understanding was a thousand miles apart. It may seem a little silly or embarrassing at first, but your spouse (especially wives here) will be glad to know you want to be clear about their expectations.
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. Proverbs 24:3
#4 Focus on what is being said, not the way it is being said. The reality is that sometimes our discussions get heated. In our house, tones don't typically change, but our volume levels do. I tend to get louder as the discussion gets more heated, and Sherry tends to get quieter. It's important to remember that no matter the communication style of your spouse, your main goal is understanding so that in the end, you can grow closer. One of the greatest pieces of marital advice I have ever heard is to stop in the midst of a heated discussion and tell your spouse that what you're arguing about has nothing to do with your love for them. Your love is not in question, whatever you're discussing is. Make that point clear and the rest of the discussion will go more smoothly.
#5 Listening is caring. The majority of people want nothing more than for someone to care enough to listen to them and to truly hear them. Every one of us has a desire to be heard. Make it your goal to fulfill your spouse's and children's desire to be heard. The wisdom and understanding you'll gain are worth it!
...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19
Which of these is difficult for you?
Set up opportunities to listen with great questions to Know Your Spouse.