True listening is taking the time (and effort) to truly consider what the other person is really saying; not only hearing their words.
Effective listeners listen
to take in information,
to think about it,
and to utilize it.
Listening to learn about the other deepens your relationship.
The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.
– Fran Lebowitz
When you interrupt someone, you are basically telling them that you don’t want to waste even a few seconds to hear what they are saying.
Tell your spouse that you will let them talk and that you will not interrupt. “You talk. I’ll listen.”
Why this works: When we know that we won’t be interrupted and we have time to speak, it changes what we speak about. We can slow down and share more because we aren’t afraid that we have to get the main point out before we are interrupted.
Additionally, when the listening person knows that they can’t interrupt, they listen deeper and better. (Usually.)
Sometimes, silence is the most important part of the communication.
Being quiet doesn’t simply mean not talking while the other is talking. Rather, it is to actually take some moments to silently reflect before responding, giving everyone time to think and absorb what was said.
DIGESTING ALOUD what you hear is a helpful way to let your spouse know what you learned when you were listening.
Digesting is allowing yourself the time and headspace to process the information that you just received so you can truly absorb it.
In the context of effective listening, digesting aloud means that you
“So, what I understand from what you shared …”
The number one rule of deep listening is: Listen to feelings FIRST.
Attuning – noticing, hearing and responding to feelings – signals deepest caring. This builds intimacy and closeness. And it helps you know what is important to each other.
Verbalize your empathy*. Respond to your spouse’s feelings.
*Empathy: the ability to understand the emotions of others.
To respond with empathy,
Be watchful not to …
Understand your spouse’s perspective AND express that understanding in a way that they can appreciate. You must express it to really show your empathy. You don’t have to agree with it, just understand why they feel that way. “I can see why you see it that way.” Don’t try to fix the problem until after you provide some empathy.
This is a possible flow for such a conversation:
↓ Your spouse expresses a discontent.
↓ You reply ”What I heard you say is … [summarize/ paraphrase]”.
↓ Your spouse can then add or clarify.
↓ Continue until your spouse has finished sharing all.
↓ Summarize. “What I got from your sharing is [summarize]”.
↓ And then don’t talk about it for some time (an hour at least) so that you can really think about it.
Why this works: When your spouse feels that you understand their perspective, it encourages them to relax and let go of the stress they’ve been holding onto.
The ‘braided dialog’ builds on each other’s
words; it intertwines your thoughts and ideas.
One of you speaks. The other digests aloud, then adds more perspective. The first digests this new information and then adds more, and so on. Such conversations bond you as a couple.
Braiding a dialog needs all the listening and talking skills:
Some ineffective dialog styles.
Most conversations are not strictly one style – some of each might creep into a dialog. Look out for ineffective elements.
Parallel Dialogues: Neglecting to pick up on what each is saying; like each is having their own conversation. This can feel like rejection of what was just said.
Oppositional Dialogues: Negating what the other just said.
The wrong way to interrupt:
When it’s OK to interrupt:
Of course, you’ll be polite.
When you feel it is worthwhile to interrupt:
Words you might use:
NOTE: Sometimes, interrupting effectively adds to a ‘braided dialog’.