The term that has become
embraced by so many regarding listening is “active listening.” Active listening reminds us that
listening is not a passive activity.
This is the deceptive thing about listening is that fact that we can
hear without any effort at all.
Our ears are built to take in noise. Active listening brings mental attention and effort toward
understanding the person speaking.
This is far more than simply hearing them.
When you think about
active listening you should think first how you would want someone to listen to
you. Jesus teaches us in Matthew
7:12 “…do to others what you would have them do to
you…” This is what is
commonly called the Golden Rule.
As simple as active listening sounds it is very hard work. There are times when I engage in active
listening with my wife or a couple I’m coaching or a friend and I come away
exhausted. The reason is active
listening is a process of active selflessness. The reason we have so much trouble listening is because we
are literally obsessed with our thoughts, opinions and agendas. Active listening communicates to the
speaker that you value them. This
is why active listening is a crucial communication tool for marriages.
You may discover that your communication
problems in your marriage have more to do with listening than talking. When we experience difficulty in
communication we usually address the problem in the most ineffective ways. Think about the last time you were
trying to communicate with someone who did not speak your language. What did you do? If you are like most Americans, you
simply turned up the volume!
Talking more and louder does not necessarily improve communication. Parents often face this dilemma with
their kids. Experts will say
raising your voice and repeating yourself is not the solution to every
communication problem. When
parents get on the same level as their children, speak in a normal or soft tone
and touch them communication almost always improves. Likewise in marriage,
talking more and louder is rarely the solution; the solution we should try
first is active listening.
you think of good marriage communication try to remember to L-I-S-T-E-N.
1. Limit distractions. We live in a world that
engages our senses at every turn.
Make an effort to limit those distractions and narrow your attention to
your spouse. Turn off the TV, sit up
straight and try to ensure there is appropriate light (this helps with face to
face communication). Do what it
takes to focus on your spouse so you can truly listen to them. When it comes to good communication we
don’t want our spouse to be one of many noises around us.
2. Intentional posture. It’s amazing to recognize
how God has created us. The
primary mechanisms of communication exist on our faces. Think about it. The mouth, eyes and ears are all
situated to receive communication best from another person in the face-to-face
posture. In marriage you should be
intentional to posture yourself to create face-to-face communication whenever
3. Show understanding. As your spouse is speaking give clues
that you are following and understanding.
This is done by nodding, asking clarifying questions and murmuring the “uh-huhs” and “um-hmms” that show you are
with them the whole way. This
responding should be done in conjunction with face-to-face body language or you
may find yourself mindlessly murmuring to you spouse and you both know you
4. Take criticism well. Sometimes the topic of conversation is
a criticism of you. If so, take it
well. Make it your practice to
listen, without being defensive, to the criticism of your spouse. Thank them for being honest and giving
you feedback. It may be painful
but helpful words. Be wise and
take those words to heart. Your
spouse may be on to something and you may be facing a wonderful opportunity to
grow. If after honest evaluation
you feel your spouse is misinformed or wrong about you, stage a conversation to
share the inaccuracies but always with humility and grace.
The temptation in a conversation is to look for ways to express your own
opinions, experiences or ideas.
The result is failure to listen while we devise our next statements or
judgments of our spouse’s statements before fully hearing them out. It is important to your spouse to be
fully heard before adding your “2-cents” to their statements. When we turn conversations into self-promotion we leave our
spouse feeling unheard.
respect. Active listening should
be a respectful process between you and your spouse. Nurturing this respect means resisting the urge to offer
uninvited solutions or answers to problems or questions. Sometimes your role is simply to listen
and not solve anything. Allowing
our spouse to struggle through a problem can actually make them feel very
valued and respected. If they need
your help they can ask. The better your listen, the more willing they will be
to ask when the time comes, because they feel respected by you.
I hope this makes sense and helps you in whatever relationship you have that needs to regain the lost art of listening!