How good are you at listening?

Today on The Morning Thing, we talked about communication, especially the “listening” side of communication.

We share some helpful insight from Family Life on how to improve your listening skills in marriage.
Below, you will find a copy of 2 articles from Family Life. We encourage you to take some time to read over their insight on listening and spend some time evaluating your skill set.

You can also click HERE for 3 case studies about listening. Maybe you can relate to one of the scenarios, we can! You will also find practical advice for your next moment of communication.

Anyone else feel like listening is a dying art form? 

We carry our lives tucked deep within us. We long for somebody (anybody!) to simply have the occasion to ask for and absorb what’s on our minds, what makes up our lives.

But communication in our world happens at the speed of light. We feel more “connected” after a 140-character tweet. Few of us possess the time or the training to receive the stories of those around us. 

Unfortunately, this means people are withering around us―even in our own homes. Even in our own marriages.

This art form takes practice. Time. The ability to love someone like we love ourselves.

So we’ve created a brief inventory to help you uncover strengths and weaknesses of your personal listening style. 

Answering honestly, ask yourself if each statement below is a strength, weakness, or neither. Then, select one or two weaknesses from this inventory (and a couple from tomorrow’s) you’d like to improve. 

  1. People come away from talking to you possessing a better understanding of themselves.
  2. You wait a few seconds after your spouse has stopped talking to see if they have more to say.
  3. You practice “reflective listening,” using words like, “So I hear you saying that you’re …”
  4. You’re comfortable with abstaining from advice at times, to simply be with someone in their grief. 
  5. You ask questions that cause your spouse to explore what he or she hasn’t before.
  6. Your spouse frequently responds to you, “That’s a good question”―but it’s okay with you if you’re not the person with all the good questions.
  7. You refrain from interrupting.
  8. You’re comfortable with not having an answer for some of life’s unfixables.
  9. You use facial expressions that are receptive: soft eyes, nodding, eye contact.
  10. You pray silently for your husband or wife while listening, and ask God for wisdom in responding.

Listening is a form of loving. It’s a gift, really, of being fully there to receive a person. 

Words tether us to each other. They are, in many ways (but not all), our relationship, the cord between us. 

Authors John and Stasi Eldredge note in Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul:

The gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift. To come―unguarded, undistracted―and be fully present, fully engaged with whoever we are with at that moment. When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus.

So what’s one way, through listening, you could move into being fully present?

Reminder on how to use this inventory: With each number, see if it’s a strength, weakness, or neither. Then, select one or two weaknesses from this list (and one or two from yesterday’s) you’d like to improve. 

  1. You refrain from finishing your spouse’s sentences.
  2. You ask for clarification when you don’t understand what your spouse means.
  3. You don’t feel the need to prove yourself as wise or helpful.
  4. Rather than planning your responses, you try to set those aside in your head and focus on what’s being said.
  5. Your spouse is noticeably comforted after you spend time listening to them.
  6. Your advice is highly individualized to your spouse, reflecting back what you’ve heard them say and steering clear of pat answers and cliches.
  7. You have time in your schedule to listen to your spouse.
  8. Before offering advice, you offer compassion and understanding: “I am so sorry. That sounds incredibly hard.”
  9. You share your own circumstances that relate, but are careful not to refocus the conversation on you, or to indicate your circumstances were worse/harder.
  10. You think of your spouse’s experience after you’ve left the conversation, internalizing their struggle. They’re on your heart, so you pray for them, too.
  11. More than a problem being fixed, you prioritize that your spouse feels heard, received, and understood.

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