Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shhhh, shut up and just listen

What does it mean to really listen when your spouse or partner is talking?

I will tell you right now the majority of you are doing one or all of the following when your spouse is talking:

  • Thinking about unrelated topics
  • Judging
  • Coming up with your defensive position
  • Having an inner argument about what to say or not
  • Searching desperately for the best advice to give
  • Selectively listening to hear what you want
  • Thinking about how unbelievably wrong they are
  • Thinking about how you are going to convince them out of it
  • Thinking about how sorry you feel for yourself
  • (Fill in this blank with your own)
I think you might really be amazed at how distracted you are by your own agenda in the conversation. What is this about?

I think our inner baby is coming out. Really we want things done and thought about our way because our way is the right way. Plus (the inner baby says) we are married and therefore we must think the same and be the same and if you stray from that my world becomes uncertain and scary. Adult arguments are just grown up tantrums.

We become so sensitive to each other that having differences of opinions can be threatening. Therefore, when having a discussion, we become desperate to have the person agree with the way we see things and are so distracted by plotting our next move to herd them into our corner we are not even listening.

When both people are doing this simultaneously, the back and forth lobs are faster and more furious than even Serena and Venus could keep up with.

I am always inclined to address those that are saying, "That's not me...I'm never like that." Let me say to you this: OK, you are the most genuine, selfless person I have ever met and I'm sorry if I offended you (the joke here is that I haven't met you because you don't exist). What I will give you is perhaps you do this less than the next guy, but we all slip into baby mode and believe the world revolves or should revolve around us. As adults, we need to understand that our perspective is just that. There are infinite possibilities and perspectives...ah inspiring (And scary. Quiet that toddler in you).

What can we do to be more present in the conversations that we have with our spouse?

1) Increase your awareness of the self chatter that goes on in your head. Review the list above and just notice how often these thoughts pop up while in a conversation. Do it more than once. Do this multiple times and take notes.

2) Set an intention to listen without interrupting and more importantly, to hear what is being spoken. Be genuinely interested in the way your spouse thinks about stuff. You love this person. Isn't it fascinating to hear how their brain makes sense of their world, what they choose to communicate and how they choose to string the words together to make sentences? So uniquely them. FASCINATING! (That last touch was to emphasize the fake it till you make it mentality...keep working at it).

3) Get out of the right versus wrong mentality. Bottom line is that your spouse is not wrong. I don't even have to know what the content is to tell you point blank, they are not wrong. Nor are you. I go back to the perspective thing. What they are saying makes sense to them given the way they understand the world and their place in it. Really, when you think about it, who are you to feel that you have to, or should change that? I have worked with plenty of people over the years who have successfully "changed" their partner into thinking the way they do and it has always come back to bite them in the ass. All the sudden, they become responsible for this person in a way they hadn't had to be before. Talk about scary...Let me be clear that we all influence each other and there is most certainly healthy influence. Another thing I will add, if I may, is that shifting our perspectives about who we are and how we've come to be is individual work that has to be taken on by the individual. While spouses can be useful it is often too touchy and is better suited to have this effort assisted by the professionals. If you want to gain more insight into who you are, call me. (Yes, you can do it yourself in your own way

4) Know the point of communication. Your job in an argument is not to have a winner or a looser. It is to see how well you can negotiate coming to a mutual agreement you can both live with. That may be closer to your thinking on the matter or vise versa but if you go into a discussion with the intent to have the whole thing exactly as you want, you may be in for it.

Off you go baby! Grow up, listen hard, and enjoy each others differences and unique offerings set before you.