It may come as a surprise, but one of the most important communication skills has nothing to do with talking. Quite the opposite! Listening is a powerful tool that helps us better understand those around us and build empathy. It is an especially important in marriage relationships, where you and your spouse need to communicate often about sensitive and personal topics. Here are five tips on how you can be a better listener and build a stronger connection with your wife or husband.
Don’t Think About What You’re Going to Say
Have you ever found yourself forming a response or thinking of a similar story when someone is talking to you? It’s common but detrimental to listening. When we are busy thinking about what we want to say, we aren’t emotionally present. We aren’t able to fully internalize what someone is saying to us. We aren’t really listening.
Do your best not to think about your response. You can do this by listening actively, making eye contact and keeping your body facing theirs. You can also repeat what they are saying in your mind.
Observe Unspoken Messages
We communicate in many ways that don’t involve words. Our body language can tell a lot about what we are really thinking. When listening to someone, pay attention to the unspoken messages. How are they sitting? Are their arms crossed? Do they fidget with their hands? Are they leaning in closer to you? You can understand how the conversation is going, someone’s receptiveness, and what someone needs by their body language.
Leave Room for Silence
Silence can be scary. We want to fill it up. However, silence can allow for deep reflection, control, and the spirit. Try to grow comfortable with silence, whether it is you or your spouse that needs it. Take the time to say a prayer, think about what has just been said, and begin thinking of the best way to respond. Silence is how we can truly internalize what we have just heard.
If necessary, you can make a statement about needing silence, such as “I need just a moment to think about that” or “I’m just going to take a second and think about what you said before I respond.” It can make the silence more comfortable.
Make Statements of Understanding
After you have listened to your spouse, ask a question or say something to show you are trying to make sure you understand what they were saying. Examples include:
- You must feel really __________ about that.
- I can see how ___________ made you feel that way.
- So, you are feeling _______ because of _______?
Pray for Ears to Hear
At the end of the day, Jesus Christ knows our hearts and the hearts of our spouse. He knows what we struggle to say. He knows how we struggle to respond. He understands why we’re fighting or upset. If we pray for the ears to hear, we will be able to listen with the spirit. We will be able to understand just a little better the heart and mind of our spouse.