© 2017, Dawn Fuller, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Yale Therapy Group
Do you know what the greatest gift is that you can give to your spouse? It’s not a new car, jewelry, a set of golf clubs, vacation, membership to a gym, or a new house. The greatest gift you can give another human being is to really listen to what they say. In today’s world of on or off-line video games; social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Snap chat, Twitter, and Instagram; the constant email up-dates on your phone; and other electronic intrusions many people pay more attention the people or organizations contacting them electronically than their spouse. There is s difference between hearing and listening to your partner. When you have been with someone a long time and a poor communication style has been established in the marriage, it can create conflict and misunderstanding.
In my practice, the biggest complaint I hear from couples is, “ She or he doesn’t listen to me.” In order to truly listen to your spouse the first thing you need to do is to turn off ALL of your electronics. This means your phone, television, stereo, radio, computer, IPods and IPads so you pay attention to your partner. Now that all the electronics are turned off, and the children are in bed, sit down with each other and begin to practice listening by following this 80-20 rule of communication- communication is 80% listening and 20% talking. Many couples do just the opposite by talking 80% of the time and listening 20% of the time. When you talk 80% of the time you are not truly listening to your mate. You’re busy formulating your response to what your spouse is saying as they are saying it. Consequently, you are not giving the speaker your full attention.
A good suggestion by Stephen Covey in his book, Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, is to Seek First To Understand And Then To Be Understood. A common and faulty pattern of communication is thinking one knows what their partner is going to say before they say it. This pattern is not helpful to clear communication because the other person may be saying something different or may not have understood when the topic was brought up earlier. Repeating the same patterns creates conflict that is not easy to resolve. If your communication doesn’t change then the marriage stagnates and suffers.
When you attempt to understand what your partner is saying, you will pay better attention. Let your partner know you have truly listened by saying, “ What I heard you say is… Is this correct?” If it is correct, HURRAH! If not say to your spouse, “I really want to know what you mean because you are important to me and what you have to say matters to me. Would you repeat so I can understand what you mean?” Keep paraphrasing until you are doing it correctly. Then give your spouse a chance to do the same for you.
When you give someone your full attention the unspoken message is what you are saying to me is important because I value you and want to know what you’re thinking and feeling. People who feel valued in marriage have a more compatible and happier relationship. Better listening leads to more open communication and better problem solving in a relationship. Give the gift of your attention to your mate and watch your relationship flourish.
I have been a clinical counselor for over 30 years and have training and experience in a wide range of counselling methods. I have been with Yale Therapy Group for the last 10 years and enjoy assisting people in creating and maintaining the relationships they’ve always wanted with themselves and others.