Let’s face it, men and women communicating successfully together is an amazing feat. Many factors work against us. Most men think with logic and most women think with emotion. Add to that the fact that we must carefully pick the correct words to truly express our feelings and keep the tone in our voice from relaying a different message. Hopefully, our spouse will understand the message as intended, but oftentimes their own thoughts, and feelings, and understanding, get in the way.
As I’ve said before, men look at things logically and look for an immediate fix. Women work through issues, emotionally, at their own pace. (Yes, there are exceptions, the tables are sometimes turned.) Neither way is right or wrong as long as you realize your differences and take them into consideration during discussions.
My husband figured it out many years ago, when after a heated discussion, I finally said to him, “Would you quit telling me your facts are more important than my feelings.”
One way we can better establish healthy communication is by using reflective listening. Reflective listening is hearing the feelings of the other person. To be certain you heard correctly, you repeat what you believe you heard them say. You repeat their feelings back to them. You don't respond until you clearly understand their words.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. We run the risk of sounding a bit mechanical or ‘therapeutic’, and it makes some people uncomfortable. To the person receiving this special attention, though, it may be a breath of fresh air.
The key is to practice it BEFORE a crisis hits. Like everything else, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. If you wait until an argument, the other person may not be so receptive.
It’s important to stick with reflecting feelings. Feelings go much deeper than facts and ideas, and often control or confuse the facts. You need to understand the feelings, first, which will then lead to clearer facts and ideas.
Beware though, reflective listening will reveal areas that you need to work on. It may show you moments you act unfairly, or point out certain needs or habits that may need to change. You may be forced to hear the negative impact you’ve had without the ability to justify yourself and ignore the bad, which is what we do when we respond instead of listen. Listening without reacting is actually a good thing if you want a harmonious relationship.
Listening is actually the best gift of communication we can give to our spouse.
James 1:19 tells us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Truly listening to what your spouse has to say without hurrying to get your words in is a strong tool in creating a joyful marriage.
More about reflective listening next time.