Are You Listening to Me?
A husband and wife were at a party in conversation with some friends when the subject of marriage counseling came up.
“Oh, we’ll never need that. My wife and I have a great relationship,” the husband explained. “She was a communications major in college and I majored in theater arts. She communicates really well and I just act like I’m listening.”
The life blood and an important foundation of your marriage is communication. To be a great husband you must have good listening skills to be able to communicate. For communication to be effective, you must have understanding, honesty, kindness, and respect. Active listening is an essential part of good communication.
The Importance of Listening to Your Wife
Wives need to feel you are listening. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what your wife is saying, let her know that you hear her. If she tells you about her day, ask questions. Asking questions is probably the best single way to show her you’re paying attention. If she’s telling you about it, it’s important to her, no matter how trivial and unimportant you may think it is. Most communication experts recommend the following traits to be a good listener.
- Feedback. Feed it back – paraphrase what was said in your own words. After your wife is done speaking you pause and say something like, “So you just did this, and then this happened, and then you decided to do that, right?” Only when the missus confirms that’s what she said and meant do you continue, either by asking another question or commenting on what was just said.
- Clarify. Never assume you know exactly what your wife meant by what she said. Ask questions and get clarification on anything said you don’t have a clear understanding of. Help your wife expand on her most recent remark by asking, “What do you mean? or “How do you mean? Ensure you have a clear understanding before reacting to what’s been said.
- Body Language. We communicate with both our words and body. Usually, body language takes precedent over words. Messages are communicated nonverbally by the tone of voice, facial expressions, energy level, posture or changes in behavior patterns. Listen to your wife with empathy, openness and awareness. Nod your head occasionally as you listen to your partner and maintain eye contact to show interest in what she is saying. If you feel a disconnect between what is said and what you see, ask for clarification. Messages are communicated nonverbally by the tone of voice, facial expressions, energy level, posture, or changes in behavior patterns. You can often tell more from the way your wife says something than from what is said.
- Focus. Eliminate outside distractions when listening to your wife. Turn off the TV, radio, put the newspaper or magazine down and if needed, go to a place where you can listen to your wife undistracted. Look at your wife maintaining eye contact. Avoid cutting her off before they have finished speaking. It is easy to form an opinion or reject another point of view before she finished what they have to say. It may be difficult to listen respectfully and not correct misconceptions, but respect her right to have and express her opinions.
- Patience. Typically, we think faster than we speak. Listen patiently. When your wife says she like to talk with you make sure you know how much time she needs so you’re not interrupting her in the middle of your conversation.
If you make sure your wife knows you hear the little things then you’re already one step ahead when it comes time to talk about the big things. When she brings up a subject that is really going to affect your marriage, she won’t start right off being irritated if she knows you’re going to actually hear what she has to say before you start to disagree.
Also, when you don’t listen it makes her feel like you think she’s neither important nor intelligent enough to have an opinion. Active listening is a vital part of good communication. If you’re read this far you are already well on your way. You at least care and have the desire to be a great husband which speaks volumes about you and the love of your wife. Get the book Communication: Key to Your Marriage: A Practical Guide to Creating a Happy, Fulfilling Relationship.
Many specialists in family relations say the number-one problem in marriages today is not sex, money or children, but lack of communication between husband and wife. H. Norman Wright tackles this dilemma in the Christian book on couples communication.
Presenting insightful ways to reduce marital conflict, manage anger, build one another’s self-esteem and just plain listen to one another, Wright provides couples with the resources to understand each other at new and deeper levels. Ideal for married and pre-married couples, counselors, lay counselors, mentors and pastors, this classic was fully revised and updated for marriages in the new millennium.