“ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?” This may be a reoccurring phrase you yell at your spouse in the heat of an argument. It can be frustrating when you are trying to pour out your heart and your spouse is tuning you out. In order for a relationship to thrive good communication must be learned and with good communication comes good listening. Listening is an integral part of how you understand and perceive others and vice versa. The only way you can fully understand a situation is with a listening ear.
Thoughtful listening is like a superpower, that anyone can have as long as they work at it, because it’s a way of listening that comes from the heart. Thoughtful listening is empathic and compassionate, it is the most effective way to listen and can bring a feeling of safety in a relationship. It promotes healing. Although in the heat of the moment when your blood pressure is rising because your last button was pushed it can be easy to push aside any thoughtful listening and only listen to respond, and usually the response is one that doesn’t bring healing but maybe more hurt and destruction. Now your partner is not listening to you and you are no longer listening to them. It becomes this cycle of both sides feeling unheard and the only possible way the other person might decide to hear is if you yell a little bit louder than them. But really a screaming match just raises volume; it doesn’t promote a kind, receptive listening ear. It ends up becoming a competition of who can get the last word in. So before answering the question, “how do you argue with your partner so they will listen?” You must ask why? Why is my partner not listening to me during an argument?
The delivery of how something is said is just as important as what is being said. You see, you could be inadvertently sabotaging the conversations you have with your spouse by having a negative or argumentative tone, speaking in a round about way, or by being passive-aggressive. So lets discuss some ways of speaking that may be causing your spouse to tune you out.
Lengthy wording: Have you ever had something you wanted to share with your spouse that you felt might be a touchy topic? So instead of going straight to the point you almost go around it in fear of receiving a negative response. This could lead to you being more lengthy and long-winded causing the point to get lost with a frustrated spouse who still doesn’t understand.
Lecturing: No one likes to feel like they are being lectured or preached at, especially when its done in such a way that makes them feel belittled and less than. If you are speaking to your partner in this way, while pointing your finger and claiming everything you say is the “right” way then the words you are saying whether right or not will not be received well and ears will be turned off. A “know-it-all” attitude doesn’t promote good listening.
Hurtful words and comments: When you become angry or frustrated do you have a loose tongue? Do you immediately feel defensive and spew hurtful words or comments? When there is a history of hurtful, insulting, intimidating, dismissive and disrespectful words that come in response to your spouse’s feelings or opinions they may find listening and acknowledging you is not something your spouse enjoys. This way of speaking may lead to your partner feeling defensive and on guard whenever an argument or even a conversation is being had.
Generalizing: Throwing around words like “always”, “never”, or “constantly” is all too easy but these absolute words aren’t fair or even accurate. When you negatively generalize it makes a person feel attacked and like all you see is their faults. These type of statements brings the assumption that a person can’t measure up and can’t do anything right. No one likes to be seen for only his or her faults and as a defense mechanism they may disregard anything you have to say.
One sided: You may so desperately want your spouse to hear you that you end up monopolizing the entire conversation. You may talk so much they feel they can’t get a word in. So instead of trying they give up and tune you out. A conversation takes two people and if your spouse feels like your not willing to leave space in the conversation to listen to them then why would they fully and thoughtfully listen to you.
Good relationships are a result of good communication, which means as much as you desire for your spouse to listen to you, you also need to learn how to be a good listener. Listening encourages a person to open up their heart; it allows vulnerability and gives the opportunity to fully see a person. However in a world that keeps us busy and regularly on the go, the more truly listening to one another can be difficult. But it is absolutely worth it! And before you can learn how to speak in such a way that promotes listening you must learn how to thoughtfully listen first. Proverbs 18:13 says it this way, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” Here are some ways to be considerate in your listening so that you can become one who “hears” when someone is speaking:
Hear Empathetically: Empathy is understanding and sharing the feeling of another person, in other words put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and choose to see things through their perspective. No matter if you are trying to resolve a conflict or share about each other’s day, hearing a person through the lens of empathy makes a person feel secure. When a person needs to vent about a situation about their day, it can be quit easy to tune them out and throw in a couple, “uhuh’s” and “yeah” to give the illusion of listening, when really your mind is elsewhere and you’re not hearing them. So instead be mindful and make an effort to see though their eyes and you will begin to see where they are coming from and why they may be frustrated.
Hear the emotion: When the conversation is hard it can be easy to get wrapped up in your own emotions rather than listening to what is being said. It is in those moments that your emotions begin to dictate your reactions and you may say or do something you end up regretting. Therefore take a minute to not only breathe but to fully hear how your spouse is feeling the emotions they are portraying. Mastering the empathy side of listening will help you understand the emotions behind the words. If you can identify the emotion, whether sad, angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, happy etc., you can respond in a more accurate and kind manner. It is important to recognize and validate what your spouse is feeling before saying and doing anything so that you can remain in control of your own emotions.
Hear without biased opinions: When you listen with care you desire to understand why a person thinks or feels the way they do about a certain topic, and you can’t do that when your own bias is clouding what they are saying. “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2). If you and your spouse are caught in a never ending fight because you are both too stubborn to let go of your own opinion you will never get anywhere in your communication. To fully hear you may need to set aside your differences and make a conscious choice to understand where they are coming from. You don’t have to change your opinion but you do need to be respectful of someone else. It is alright to agree to disagree in a calm and civil manner. Ultimately your spouse does deserve to be heard.
Hear with love: You don’t just communicate with your mouth and ears, you use your entire body, and body language can say a lot. So using loving gestures like holding eye contact, nodding to affirm your listening or even reaching out and touching them or holding their hand, these can be sweet signals that you hear them. When a person is talking and you immediately turn towards them, maybe even stop what you’re doing, turn off the TV, phone or device, you are communicating that they are valuable and loved. It is in these precious moments that you affirm to your spouse how much you love and care for them. Being present with someone and being attentive to every word they are saying is a gift. Your spouse is worth your time and attention.
The Bible tells us in James 1:19 that we must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Therefore even God’s word tells us that listening and fully hearing is more important than speaking because speaking can get us in trouble. “Indeed we all make mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2). There is power in the tongue; therefore it is wise to be a good listener and to fully understand before spouting out words that could cause division or strife. Although on the flip side of all that, yes being a good listener is very important, but being heard offers value as well. Listening and hearing can’t all be one sided because you both have unique perspectives and you both have different ways you want to be heard, which take us back to HOW we need to listen.
You see the sword can cut both ways meaning the greatest flaw we all have is well, being human. We all fall short and we all make mistakes. Selfishness, wanting what “I” want, is our natural bend. So instead of thoughtfully listening and hearing the needs of our husband or wife it’s easy to complain and whine about how: “he doesn’t listen to what I need”, “She is never happy with anything I do” or “he refuses to discuss our problems”, “she will not apologize for anything.” To be heard, you must be willing to hear first, but lets discuss some ways you can speak to your spouse that will most likely lead to open ears and an open heart. Raising your voice is NOT one of them.
Speak concisely: When you want to be heard, often times less is more. It’s when you beat down a point that ears tune out. So take a moment to say what exactly needs to be said and then wait. Wait for the words to sink in to your spouse’s heart and mind and then wait for a response. Don’t expect a response right away; allow a “pause” in the conversation. It’s when you poke, and prod that can make an argument escalate.
Choose soothing words: Don’t be abrasive, instead choose to speak with kindness and love in your heart. Remember the golden rule “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Keep the conversation civil by not making your partner feel like they are being criticized, blamed, or shamed in anyway. As much as you may want to “change” your spouse, you must recognize the only person you can speak for is yourself. Give your perspective without pointing the finger or spouting judgment and opinions.
Take ownership: As easy as it is to cast blame that is the quickest way to shut your spouse down. Don’t make accusations; instead speak from the heart by sharing your emotions and your perspective. Fault rarely lies solely on one person’s shoulders, so be willing to acknowledge your portion of wrongdoing and be quick to seek forgiveness. When you are quick to apologize for forgiveness, rather than shouting blame, you will create a safe place that will keep them from bringing their guard up.
Balance negativity with the positive: No one enjoys being around or listening to someone who likes to complain. Negativity can drain a person and can come across as being a nag. So create a positive atmosphere by finding the silver lining, which comes from knowing and understanding your partner’s character, then couple it with something that might be weighing on you. For example, if your spouse is working himself or herself into the ground and they regularly bring work home with them leaving no time for family, perhaps you say something like this, “You are such a hard worker and I’m so grateful for the way you provide for our family. I appreciate all that you do, but I would also like us to be more mindful and intentional in planning family time.” Speak to what you need and want without putting your partner down.
The quicker you recognize that arguing with your partner so they will listen begins with you and how well you attentively hear and listen, the quicker your relationship will reap the benefits. Listening opens up doors that will promote on-going and open communication. You will no longer feel like you have to walk on eggshells when it comes to communicating with your partner. Listening demonstrates a genuine concern and interest in another person, which leads to person feeling, loved and accepted. Listening builds a platform for mutual respect, trust and understanding. It promotes harmony within relationships and gives opportunities for successful conflict resolution. Listening opens the door for personal growth by giving opportunities to put others needs before oneself. Relationships are developed and able to sustain through the way two people listen to one another. God gave us a gift when He gave us two ears and only one mouth because hearing a person with attentive ears can be sweet treasure as you begin to fully see their heart, and the masterpiece God created them to be. SO LISTEN UP!