My husband and I have been watching the Netflix series “Stranger Things” lately, and I see a metaphor in that show that perfectly illustrates the “Fine Art” of listening. What is it? Well, let me lay some groundwork before I reveal that answer.
There’s no hiding the fact that my husband and I have had some whopper-sized fights over the years. And I’m convinced that we would have avoided every one of those arguments if we had made listening to understand our primary focus, rather than trying to be heard and understood.
In marriage, 9 times out of 10, our approach needs to start with trying to understand our mates before getting our mates to understand us. There’s just something offensive and counterproductive about protecting our interests over protecting and understanding our spouses’.
[bctt tweet=”My focus needs to start with understanding my mate, rather than forcing my mate 2 understand me.” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
That is where the metaphor comes into play (spoiler alert!). In the Netflix series there are several portals that lead to the “underworld” in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. The townspeople have an urgent need to reach this underworld because certain characters have gotten trapped there and are trying to escape an alien-like creature on the prowl. Eek!
Those portals are like the “Fine Art” of listening, in that listening grants you passage into your spouse’s cold heart, as well as providing the warmth you need for your own heart to thaw out.
How to develop the “fine art” of listening . . .
1. Carve out daily times to listen to your mate.
Now, you don’t even have to tell your mate that you are doing this. Just start listening better, more attentively and without an agenda to any thoughts or feelings that your spouse shares with you. Encourage sharing by asking questions that help to draw out more.
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” ~Proverbs 20:5
Check below for ideas on questions to ask.
2. Whenever your spouse opens up, listen at least twice as much as you talk.
Know the old saying?
“God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we would listen twice as much as we speak.”
You might worry that your quiet or withdrawn mate won’t open up, so you need to fill the space in order to connect. I would say, resist that urge by asking some of the questions I share below. And remember, sometimes a mate will grow quiet because there hasn’t been enough of an invitation or “room” to open up in the past.
3. Use open-ended questions as a “portal” into your spouse’s world and feelings.
Make it your mission to discover what your spouse is feeling by asking questions that draw out his/her thoughts and feelings, rather than discussing what you think they are! 😉
One good question that my hubby and I ask each other regularly is: “What was a high and low in your day and why?”
A good and simple follow up to that question is, “Tell me more about that.”
Here are some other helpful questions:
- “How can I help you in that situation?”
- “What are some of the feelings this situation is stirring in you?”
- “What are you confident you did right?”
- “If you could change your response, what would you do or say differently?”
Your goal is to listen so well that you begin to feel compassion and empathy for your mate’s feelings. If you listen and do not feel empathy, then keep on listening until you do!
[bctt tweet=”Listening well in marriage involves entering your spouse’s world. #empathize” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
4. Reflect back your spouse’s words.
Anytime you feel yourself veering toward a disagreement, typically misunderstanding is occurring. So check to see if you’re understanding your mate correctly by paraphrasing back what you heard your spouse say. Doing that can deescalate tensions and helps to bring clarity! Besides, it will feel so good for your mate to know he/she has been heard and understood!
Click on the link to read more posts in this “Back to School series—7 Lessons on Learning to Love Well When the Winds of Marriage Grow Colder.” Next week, I’ll be sharing one final lesson I’ve learned in marriage by looking at the subject of “Social Studies” to examine “How Your Behavior Changes the Culture in Your Marriage.”
What other questions would you add to my list above?
What is one way you need to improve as a listener with your mate?
Be sure to scroll down below to comment!
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