Changing the Tone of Marriage (Listening)

One problem of communication in marriage is that there is too much talking and not enough listening. Americans hear almost everything but listen to almost nothing. In a media driven culture we innately learn to tune in and tune out with lightening speed. This “switching channels” mentality does not bode well for marriage. If you are going to be effective in communicating with your spouse you must learn to listen.

Listening is more important than talking. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” Wise people listen more and talk less. They seek understanding. Remember, communication is not talking, communication is being understood. James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger . . .” James must have known my grandmother. She used to say that God gave you two ears and one mouth, talk less, listen more. Ironically, she was quite the talker! When you visited her you mainly sat and listened. Maybe that was her point!

Because we are prone to listen less and mentally switch channels frequently, most people are thinking about what they want to say next and not actually listening to what is being said. In essence, when couples talk there are two monologues, but not real dialogue. This is why communication in marriage is often frustrating. Not frustrating because of what is being said as much as what is not being heard and understood.

Here are a few good policies for good listening:

1. Develop a habit of pausing before you speak. In this way you not only give your mind time to process thought, but it is good etiquette in making sure the person talking is finished and you are not interrupting.

2. Remember, no one reads minds. You may think you know what is being said, but refrain from mentally completing the other person’s sentences. Let them talk. You listen.

3. Use reflective questions that seek to clarify and summarize the way you understand what was just said. “So what you are trying to say is . . . is that correct?” Or, “What do you mean by . . .?” These questions make sure that you are not simply hearing words, but that you are understanding. These questions also keep you focused on the conversation and send a positive message to the other person that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.


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