Listening is not easy, and we are never taught how to do it well. Learn the strategies of listening to ensure that you are showing up in the ways that are the most meaningful!
One of the more common experiences I have is watching someone struggle with the pressure to always have an answer or response in a high value discussion. It can be so disconcerting when someone is asking our opinion, looking for our agreement, or an explanation and we feel we cannot give it…
We have all been given false narratives about how we are supposed to communicate in relationship. These false narratives are often seen as honorable or required, particularly when we are trying to heal a relationship. Countless couples come into my office and talk about the need for absolute transparency for trust and connection to be restored.
To be an intentional couple, one of the core skills that must be mastered is the art of listening. We have been given gross information about what listening is and how we should do it. Some folks think that they should be making grand facial expressions while mutter “uh huh…”, nodding their head and wrinkling their brow to show that they are listening. But listening is something entirely different. Today we are going to talk about why we listen and how we alter our approaches to listening.
We listen for four key reasons: to allow someone to vent, to help them unpack something in their head, to seek understanding, and perhaps to resolve something. Let’s look at each of them independently.
What is yelling? When a partner denies that they yell, I wonder if they know what they sound like. I think there are two distinct types of yelling. The first, is the basic and popular raised voice yelling. It often starts at our toes and rolls up our core until it comes out of our mouths as a strong bellowing exhortation of increased volume, often accompanied by words that would offend us if they were spoken to us. The other type of yelling is more complex. It is tight and constricted. It starts in our throat. It is not loud and bellowing. The volume is not out of range. However, it is the tone – sharp, clipped, judgmental, and cuts like a knife. It feels like yelling to the recipient.
There are so many times that I am sitting with a couple who are in distress, feeling unheard and struggling through difficult communication. They unintentionally are making the process so much harder for themselves. I can see them getting stuck in the who is right argument and discounting the reality that there can be more than one truth. This is where a small shift can make a big difference!