As a coach, I often reflect on what listening really is, how simple it is, and unfortunately, how rare true, present listening really is. If you stop and think about your last interaction with your spouse, was each of you listening? I define real listening as putting aside your own agenda to be present, hear and understand another person and to be able to engage in that person's world without projecting your own thoughts, feelings, fears, experiences. In our fast-paced lives with so many juggled tasks and responsibilities, true listening can be hard to come by. But its benefits are beyond measure.
I teach parents how to truly listen to one another in my Parenting by Connection classes and we are always amazed by the vulnerable sharing and truth that surfaces in true listening's gentle presence.
For couples, one simple practice can improve listening tremendously and it is used commonly in couples counseling and workshops. Try it and see if it helps to bring you and your spouse closer together and to help you feel more heard and present.
Each spouse gets a turn, start with 5 minutes. Set a timer. The person who is speaking is the only one who gets to speak during that 5 minutes of time. The listener must clear his or her mind of thought and simply listen to the spouse who is speaking. When the timer goes off, the listening spouse must explain to the speaking spouse what they heard them share. The spouse who spoke gets to respond to the listener to let them know if their most salient points were heard and communicated back accurately and if there were any main takeaways that were missed. Then the partners switch.
It's that simple! Try it and I guarantee you will feel more heard, more connected and more able to start joining together to improve your marriage rather than working at odds against each other.
Here's to feeling like a team and to deepening your marriage each day.