The last of my six steps to conflict resolution is: ” tune into your listening sensitivity.” Essentially, be your own therapist. One of the cornerstones of providing good therapy is listening. If you aren’t listening to your clients you cannot help them. The same is true for your relationship. One would say that communication is the key to any good relationship. I say, without the skill of listening, there would be no communication. We make a lot of assumptions when we have been with someone for a long period of time. Believing we can predict what one is thinking or feeling inevitably leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Taking a moment to really listen to what your partner is saying could result in more productive conversations and less conflicts.
Because this is a different style of communication than most people are accustomed, the clients and myself work on this technique in the office before they try it at home. I ask one client to be the speaker and one to be a listener. When the speaker has the floor, the listener cannot speak until the speaker is done. I ask the speaker to try to only discuss one thought/feeling at a time. The listener then paraphrases what the speaker had said by saying first: “What I am hearing you say,” “It sounds like,” or “If I understand you right.” If the listener has it wrong, I allow the speaker to speak again until the listener truly understands the speaker. It looks something like this:
Speaker (Wife): I feel that when we are at my parents’ house you can be rude and antisocial.
Listener (Husband): What I am hearing you say is you think I am rude (WRONG, try again.).
Speaker: I feel that when we are at my parents’ house and they are trying to talk to you about your work, you can be rude by not engaging with them.
Listener: It sounds like you think that I am being rude to your parents when I do not engage with them when they speak to me about work.
Speaker (Husband): I want you to know that the reason I do not engage when they talk to me about work is because I want to enjoy my time with them and not talk about my stressful job.
Listener (Wife): I am hearing you say that when you are with the family you do not want to talk about your work because it stresses you out and you want to enjoy your time off.
BRAVO! Job well done. Gold star to these clients. However, this could have gone terribly wrong. In my house it would have went something like this:
Me: You were rude to my mom.
Me: You’re a jerk.
Husband: No, I was just stressed and I wanted to have a nice time without talking about my work.
Me: I hear what you are saying, but you are still a jerk.
This step sounds simple, but take it from me, it’s not! It is extremely difficult to let the other person talk without interrupting or becoming defensive, and to truly listen to them and not make assumptions based on past experiences. I rarely ever enforce this step with myself at home, but I do enforce it in every single therapy session so my clients feel heard and understood. But wait, why wouldn’t I want my spouse to feel heard and understood? Maybe that is something we should all ask ourselves.
Natalie Nesbitt, MS, LPC, loves working with couples! Helping them find the passion in their relationship; remove blocks that are keeping them from being their best; learning to have a marriage they have only dreamed. Providing therapy in a private boutique counseling setting in Paoli, Pennsylvania, conveniently located on the Main Line. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She’s worked with individuals and families struggling with substance abuse; men whom have lost their sense of purpose or are striving for more; Millennials to help them overcome feelings of depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and the hardships of transitioning from 20s to 30s. She’s encouraged and empowered many wives and mothers to follow their goals of being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. She has helped countless couples save their marriages and/or relationships and come back from the deepest of betrayals.
Reach out today for a 15 minute free phone consultation!