Problems in marriages are as predictable as death and taxes. What’s not so evident is how to solve them. Just as small weeds keep growing into large, deep rooted ones, when small everyday problems are left unresolved they often grow into difficult situations that must be dealt with extensively in order to remove the potential for damage to a relationship. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be proactive about our marriages, solving the little issues before they become major ones? We can.
One of the most powerful ways we can understand, empathise and resolve small issues before they become larger ones is by taking the time to listen carefully to our partner, on a daily basis. Scott Peck has said that ‘active listening is the hardest work we can do’, and many of us experience difficulty when we attempt to listen to others without judgement or leaping in to give our opinions and advice. The following is a “list of ingredients” for active listening-a gift of love to our partner and the basis for solving problems constructively.
A Covenant of Listening:
1. I will give my partner my full attention instead of just half listening.
2. I will not interrupt when he/she is speaking.
3. I will work at repeating his/her thoughts and feelings back, so I am certain I have understood what has been said to me, and he/she is also certain I have understood.
4. I will establish eye contact.
5. I will turn off the TV, put down the newspaper or turn away from my computer screen to give full attention to my partner.
6. If I am silent, I will use positive non-verbal communication.
7. I will keep confidences.
8. I will never demand more communication than my partner is willing to give.
When active listening is occurring between two people, misunderstandings and misinterpretations are clarified. If I know my partner wants to make sure he/she understands my thoughts, my feelings and my perspectives, I become much more open to giving these things as well. This creates reciprocity of love and care, a foundation for any relationship. Looking for a resolution for the new Millennium? Resolve to listen well.