If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit, listening is difficult. I would rather be listened to and understood than to listen to Gary. I want him to be riveted to my concerns about my day, but when he wants to offload the stresses of his, my attentions seem to wander elsewhere. Why is this? Why is listening so hard? When was the last time you listened to your mate with the sole intention of understanding their experience?
Before we get to what we can do to hone our skills, let’s explore why listening is so tricky.
Life is full and our brains are busy. Men’s brains tend to compartmentalize. When they have a full plate, they have more difficulty shifting to a space where they are attentive and available verbally.
As multi-taskers, women are used to having their attention in many places at once. They, too have difficulty narrowing their focus to be fully attentive to their mate’s concerns.
- Lack of Motivation/selfishness
If we face the truth about ourselves—most of us are more invested in having our mate agree with us or hear us out than in listening carefully to them. We value being understood more than understanding our mate. Proverbs 18:2 nails this: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinion.”
- Pride and Stubbornness
We don’t want to hear anything that goes against (or we think goes against) our own position. Also, when angry with our mate, we can stubbornly refuse to listen to their position as a form of protest or punishment.
- Effort- Listening is Work
It takes setting ourselves aside for the time being and really focusing on the feelings, thoughts, and concerns of our mate.
HOW TO BECOME A LOVING LISTENER
- Have the humility to recognize you do wear glasses. You do filter your mate’s communication. Try to be open.
- Check in with your mate on their intended meaning. Your “glasses” become cleaner as you are able to see their side.
- Invite your mate to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Demonstrate you are receptive and available by your eye contact, body language and demeanor.
- Demonstrate respect by allowing them to speak their truth. Allow for differentness. Abandon mind reading and playing amateur psychoanalyst. This is a dead end. Consciously coach yourself to listen with the sole intention of understanding your partner’s world.
- If you’re too tired or unavailable when your mate wants to talk—set a time soon thereafter when he/she may have your undivided attention.
Listening is the “lubricant of love.” It, more than anything else, communicates respect (for the others unique experience), caring (I can set my self aside), and love (you are important to me and I want to take time to hear you).
Try an experiment this week and listen more intentionally to your mate. Let us know what happens!