Harry is talking, explaining something. Patty, his wife looks at the clock—realizing it is late. Instantly his face hardens in anger. Her face responds with fear.
What happened? Harry feels disrespected and put down because he feels she is not listening to him. Patty knows it is important for them to get to an appointment and all she did was look at the clock. She is afraid she made him angry. The whole interaction took seconds. The loving mood is broken and they must find a way to repair—to get close again. Communication, and the mood of a marriage, is made up of little moments like this.
Listening to a partner can be learned and here are powerful skills
1. Lean in and have eye contact. Show that you are listening.
2. Pay attention to his words as well as his feelings.
3. Say back to your partner the gist of what he/she said to you—so there is no doubt you heard.
4. Do not add your own thoughts or feelings until your partner has COMPLETED his/hers. Do not advise, sympathize, or tell your own story when you are listening.
5. Be curious about your partner—not furious. This is the most important person in the world to you—get their whole meaning. Ask “is there more”?
6. If it is a repeat of something you have heard many times, say something like, “Honey I remember the last time you told me that. I’m eager to learn something more about you.”
7. When you are the talker, make a request rather than a complaint. Make it as clear and succinct as you can. One subject at a time works best. Say only as much as your partner can repeat back to you.
Skillful communication is one of the most important ways you can create the relationship of your dreams. It is worth practicing. When you blow it, you can say, “Honey, let’s turn back the clock and do this over so we can get it right”.