Listening to Really Hear

ThinkstockPhotos-149314722Mark says: Listening is one of the most important intimacy-building communication gifts God has given couples.  It’s often been said that listening is so important to God that he gave us one mouth and two ears.  He really wants us to listen to one another.

Jill says: Too often we listen to correct, to make a point, to interrupt, or to eventually talk about ourselves.  But we have to learn to listen to hear what our spouses are saying, as well as to hear what they are feeling!

Mark says: Jill and I have not always been good listeners.  We’re better than we used to be, but are still growing in this skill. We both had to realize how much our conversation with each other was something we engaged in not because we wanted to really hear the other person but because we had an agenda and we wanted him or her to really her us!

Jill says: Several years ago we read a book that introduced us to a practical strategy to help us draw one another out and resist the urge to turn the conversation to our agenda. It’s called the three question technique and basically it helps you ask three questions of your spouse before saying anything about yourself.

Mark says: Bobbie and Myron Yagel explain this very well in their book 15 Minutes to Build a Stronger Marriage, “With this technique we listen intently enough to be able to ask three questions before we say ‘I’ or before we switch the conversation to our perspective, interests, or problems.” Our goal is to keep the attention focused on the speaker.  Here are three attempts at a conversation to illustrate the three-question technique:

Attempt #1

Husband: “I had a great day today!”

Wife: “That’s nice.  I had a very challenging afternoon with the kids.”

Oops! The wife just flunked the “three-question technique,” because she said “I” without asking her husband even one question.  She used the subject introduced by her husband as a springboard to talk about her day.

Attempt #2

Husband: “I had a great day today!”

Wife: “That’s good.  What made it so good?”

Husband: “We accomplished so much on the renovation project today, and we were able to get everything cleaned up and ready for tomorrow.”

Wife: “Cleaned up?  I feel like I have no time to clean up around here.  In fact, that was part of my challenge this afternoon.”

Oops!  One question is making progress, but let’s try again.

Attempt #3

Husband: “I had a great day today!”

Wife: “That’s good.  What made it so good?”  (Question 1 asks for more details)

Husband: “We accomplished so much on the renovation project today, and we were able to get everything cleaned up and ready for tomorrow.”

Wife: “That’s wonderful.  So who was there to help with the project?” (Question 2, a question that says, “Keep talking.  I’m interested.”)

Husband: “Well, there were probably twenty people who volunteered today.  Their experience and commitment to this project helped us accomplish all that we did.”

Wife: “Given the challenges and the magnitude of this project, I know this was important to you.” (Question 3: Although this wasn’t really a question, it was a statement that invited further conversation.)

Husband: “Yes, it was important to me.  I am so excited to see it all begin to pay off.  I was really beginning to wonder if it was even worth the effort.  Now I know we will finish on schedule, and I can relax. So enough about my day, how was your day?”

Jill says: Do you see how much deeper into the conversation this couple was able to go?  Now when she begins to talk about her day, the conversation is at a more meaningful, personal level.  By drawing one another out and really listening, we are able to take communication to the next level.

Mark says: We miss so much learning about one another when we jump in with our agenda!  When we draw each other out in conversation, we find the intimacy we really are seeking.

What about you? How have you worked to be a better listener in your marriage? 

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3 Responses to Listening to Really Hear

  1. Erin says:

    This is great, practical advice, Jill and Mark! Thank you for sharing it!

  2. c says:

    Great advice – in marriage and in life. Thank you !

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