Chapter 6: Our Listening Ear Can Bring Healing
Our Listening Ear can be The Best Medicine
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your spouse or significant other, is nothing more than a listening and compassionate ear. Life has a tendency to throw us curve balls, and before we know it we are smack dab in the middle of the "Emergency Room of Life", as we deal with the various types of crisis situations that come our way. And when these stressful situations arise, what is first thing we do? I personally find myself looking for a caring and compassionate person who will "Listen to Understand" what I am going through, as I open up and share the details of what is happening in my life.
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I learned the principle of "Listening to Understand", several years ago, but it took me several more years before I actually "Got it". I had learned in my counseling classes in college, that when my wife/significant other was upset about something, that I should come to her and ask her to "Share" what she was going through (not in a prying way, but in a caring way). I was also told that when she does begin to open up, that I am supposed to listen very carefully, and try to put myself in her shoes, so that I can fully understand what she is going through (to the best of my ability). And that the main ingredient to "Listening to Understand", is for me to wait until she is done, look her in the eyes, and say something like "Wow, I get it, that is terrible", and that I wasn't supposed to try and fix what she was going through.
So one day I was presented with an opportunity to try out my "New Skills". My wife came home from work, and it was obvious that she was upset about something, so I gently asked her if everything was okay. She responded by opening up about some challenges she was having at work. So I listened to her, and although I had three different potential solutions popping into my mind as she spoke, and although I could have easily interrupted her to present all three solutions, which were amazing (just to save time - LOL), I didn't interrupt her, I just listened to her instead.
Once she was done sharing her bottled up negative emotions, I just looked at her said ... "Wow, that's terrible". I also added another really helpful phrase that I learned in college, and said "If I were you, I would be frustrated too ... wow." ... then I was quiet. She first paused, then to my surprise, she looked at me, threw her arms up in the air, and said, "Well, aren't you going to offer a solution, I came to you because I need to fix this problem"! So what did I do? I offered her some solutions, and saved the day (Knight in Shining Armor Complex)! I say all this to bring up the fact, that not everyone needs a listening ear "all the time", sometimes they do need some suggestions on how to fix the problem. But a lot of the time people just need a "listening and compassionate ear", because it really is one of the best medicines for our relationships, and for our lives.
Three Reasons Why People Don't Open up when they're Stressed
1. We Use Blame Words:
Sometimes we "don't" come to our spouse and share what we are going through, because in our minds, they always seem to take things personal, and end up getting defensive when we share our reasons for being Frustrated and Stressed. And one of the main reasons they tend to get defensive is because we sometimes give them the old "One-Two Punch" (which was explained in a previous chapter of this book). In other words we "Ambush them with our overwhelming emotions" without warning, and then we sprinkle in a few "Blame Words" which insinuate that all, or part of their stressful situation, was our fault.
(One: Ambush ... Two: Blame Words = "One-Two Punch")!
Example #1 (Wife speaking to her husband): "I am so upset right now; I'm stuck on the side of the Freeway because I ran out of gas. If only you would have filled my gas tank up yesterday"! Can you please come help me?
Example #2 (Husband speaking to his Wife): "I am so stressed out about these bills that are piling up! I wish you wouldn't spend so much money on things we don't need, our garage just seems to pile up with "Stuff", stuff we never needed, and stuff we'll never use"!
2. We don't Validate their Feelings
Sometimes, when we listen to a person as they open up and tell us why there are frustrated or stressed, we respond by communicating (in a matter of words), that they are "silly", or "illogical", or "Foolish", for feeling the way they do. We basically convey that they are "Blowing Everything out of Proportion", and are "Crazy" or "Dumb" for feeling frustrated. We do this because we put "ourselves" in their shoes, and think to ourselves "I would never feel that way if I were them ... They're Coo-Coo!". When we do this to a person that is in a Crisis, it is very "Emotionally Crushing to them". It's like we are the Giant, and they are the Ant ... Splat! The truth of the matter is that they do have every right for feeling the way they do, and if we were them (in their shoes), we would act the same way.
Note: Empathy doesn't come from putting ourselves in the other person's shoes (because that means that we look at their situation from our own perspective). True Empathy comes from taking the time and energy to fully "Grasp and Understand" what it's like, "To Actually Be Them".
3. We Try to Fix Everything
This is most applicable to men, since most men long to be "The Night in Shining Armor" (but like all these principles, it's not always black and white). We often want to evaluate our wife's/spouse's problems as they share what they're going through, then before they're even done with their sentence, we have already come up three different "Excellent Solutions", to solving their problem. It's best to just listen to their hearts, try to understand the emotions they are processing, then validate their feelings without trying to fix things.
Once your significant other realizes that you understand what they are experiencing, and you have compassion for them, it will help bring "healing" to their souls, and "bonding" to your relationship.
Your homework for this chapter is to purposely look for opportunities where you can "Listen to Understand", when your Spouse or Significant Other, is frustrated or stressed about something in life.
Here are some guidelines to follow...
Listening to Understand Guidelines
1. Realize that your Listening and Compassionate Ear Can Melt Your Spouses Stress Away.
2. Empathize: When they do "Share" what they are going through, be sure to try your best to see things from "Their" Perspective.
3. Validate Their Feelings: Never communicate to them that they are foolish or dumb for feeling the way they do. Always convey to them that they have every right for feeling the way they feel.
4. Resist the Temptation to (1) Use Blame Words (2) Interrupt them (3) Fix their Situation.
Finally, after you "Listen to Understand" what your significant other is going through, a good question to "Gently" ask would be ... "Are you looking for a solution, or do you just need a listening ear"?