Excerpt from An online Course: Where God puts two hearts in a home
―That‘s not what I said!
―You never listen to me!
―I have already told you that three times!
―I can‘t believe that you‘re asking me the same question again!
―I tried to tell you, but you were too busy talking!
―Don‘t cut me off … I was talking!
―Maybe that‘s what you heard, but that‘s not what I said!
When someone uses statements such as these, they are trying to communicate, How I feel and what I have to say are important. Please listen to me! Part of knowing how to communicate in a Christlike way is learning how to listen in a way that demonstrates genuine interest and concern. Few people know how to listen. The motto today seems to be: It‘s all about me! Let‘s talk about me. This may be especially true in the marriage relationship. The goal in marriage is for dialogue to occur. Unlike a monologue where just one person speaks and the other listens; a dialogue is when two people share a conversation. One of the best ways to show that you want to dialogue is by asking good, open questions and then by being quiet and attentive long enough to hear the answer.
Most people know the importance of listening; but fail at putting it into practice on a regular basis, especially in a marriage relationship. It is easier to say than to do. There are actually many reasons why people are poor listeners, but here we will only mention some of the most common. Would your spouse say that any of these apply to you?
- People are generally self-absorbed. In other words, people are very interested in telling someone else what they think. They are less interested in valuing another‘s opinion as important. This self-absorption produces a basic disrespect that displays itself in poor listening.
- People are impatient. Research shows that a person has the capacity to listen five to ten times faster in a given timeframe than another has time to talk. So while you listen, there is a lag time. During those seconds after you understand the speaker‘s last point, but before he has completed the next point, you may allow your mind to wander, to think about how you are going to answer, or to just tune out what the other person is saying.
- People anticipate. You may miss the point of a message because you think you know what the person will say and jump to a premature conclusion. While the person is still talking, you may formulate a response in your mind. As a result, you might miss the person‘s meaning altogether.
- People are distracted. Interruptions bombard you constantly. The telephone rings; the dog barks; people knock on the door; the kids cry or interrupt your conversation. Sometimes these interruptions make it hard to focus on what someone is saying.
See if you can match the following scenarios with the barriers mentioned above.
Vince and Grace: All day Vince had anticipated a time to talk to Grace about his desire to find another job. That evening, after the kids were asleep and all was quiet, Vince decided to communicate what was on his heart. About five minutes into it, the telephone rang. Grace told Vince that she had to get the phone, because she had been waiting for this particular call all day. She assured him that it would only take a moment. A few minutes later, Grace returned and Vince continued sharing. About three minutes later, their youngest child, Lee, began to cry from his bedroom. Grace again apologized and said that she would be right back. After Grace returned, Vince tried once again. Just then it started to rain hard outside, when Grace all of a sudden realized that all of her clean clothes were hanging on the line. So she and Vince ran out to quickly gather the clothes out of the rain. After that, Vince told Grace that he was tired and was going to bed.
Peter’s Dilemma: Peter sat down to have lunch with a man who would soon be taking over his job. Peter was anxious to encourage him and hoped that he could give him some helpful tips, which he had learned from many years on the job. When they sat down to have lunch together, however, Peter could hardly speak. The other man talked incessantly about his own accomplishments, his experience in other jobs, and his skills that made him fit for this job. The man was so anxious to impress Peter that he never asked Peter one question about himself or about the job.
Sukuru’s Thoughts Run Wild: Sukuru asked Mai how her day was. Mai began sharing what seemed to Sukuru to be every unimportant detail of what she had done that day. While she was talking, Sukuru began thinking, ―I still need to gather my files for work tomorrow. Oh, and I can‘t forget to repair the hole in the fence. I wonder why my brother isn‘t here yet…
Tony and Ruth: Tony knew that he was going to be bored when Ruth began the conversation with, ―I know that I have said this to you before …She proceeded to share what was on her mind, but Tony did not listen. He figured that he had heard it many times before, so while he kept an attentive expression, he spent his time thinking how he could cut this conversation short so he could go watch TV.
Barbara and Ken: Barbara greeted Ken warmly at the door. ―How was your day, honey?
Oh, I guess it was okay, but I …
That‘s great, I made some bean soup for dinner.
When you are communicating with your spouse, do you make it a point to ask questions that help to draw out your spouse‘s story? Or are you like Tony, eager to get on to something that you find more interesting? One of the best ways to show that you really care about your spouse is to ask good questions and then to be quiet long enough to truly hear the answer.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… “ Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” James 1:19, 23-24