Do you feel like you’re struggling to get your point through to your spouse? Or maybe you’ve noticed that small disagreements are being blown out of proportion one too many times. Oftentimes, good communication starts from you learning to be a good listener. Here are five ways you can do that:
Ditch the distractions
Turn the TV off, put your phone down and close your email inbox, because nobody wants to feel like they’re being ignored. Being able to multi-task might be great in many situations, but even if you’re able to focus on what your spouse is saying, it can look like you’re not interested in listening, or make them feel like they aren’t important—a surefire way of getting them riled up!
Show your spouse you are listening by asking relevant questions or by paraphrasing what they say. This will help you gain a better understanding of their perspective, and might help you gain insights you didn’t have before.
It also makes your spouse feel heard, and someone who feels like you understand them and are on their side is also far more likely to be willing to listen to what you have to say in return. This brings us to the next point…
Drop the defensiveness
Be careful your questions don’t come across as defensive or worse, as an attack—especially if you’re in the middle of a disagreement. When our emotions are heightened it’s easy to nitpick on words like “always”, or “never”, and to begin kitchen-sinking—where you begin dumping all your own complaints on your spouse instead. So hold your tongue for a little and keep your mind quiet so you can both listen and hear better.
Dial-up the empathy
If you’re tempted to dismiss your spouse’s feelings as trivial, try putting yourself in their perspective and ask yourself what you would have done. This can help you understand why your spouse is upset or bothered. You can also physically show empathy with little gestures like pouring them a cup of coffee, pulling a chair for them to sit on—anything that shows you care, and which can break down the defensiveness to make both sides willing to listen and compromise.
Remember whose team you are on
Let’s face it: You can say all the right things but if you aren’t coming from a place of love, your spouse can tell. So remember, you aren’t on team “me”, but team “us”, and that means working towards a common goal, together. Keep that as your priority, and you might find more willingness to listen and understand, rather than to clamour to be heard.