Q: My husband and I are both bright, articulate people but seem to have a great deal of difficulty communicating with each other. I generally feel that he doesn’t hear a word I say and is just waiting for me to pause so he can jump in with his point of view. How can I get him to listen to me?
A: Feeling heard and understood is an essential part of a healthy, intimate relationship. The listening is as important as the talking when it comes to effective communication.
I specialize in working with couples and therefore see many who are dealing with such problems. One of the most common pitfalls I see is the faulty assumption that listening isn’t as important as “doing something.” In reality, many times being listened to is exactly what the other partner is desperately asking for and needs.
The following is a quote that underscores the importance of listening.
– When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.
– When I ask you to listen to me, and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
– When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
– Listen! All I asked was that you listen, not talk or do – just hear me.
– Advice is cheap; 50 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.
– And I can do for myself. I am not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
– When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
– But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and can get about this business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
– And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.
– Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people – because God is mute, and he/she doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.
– “They” just listen and let you work it out for yourself. So please listen and just hear me.
– And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I will listen to you.