[From Julie] Do you ever catch yourself in conversations that you have no recollection of after they are over? You know you were talking but can’t remember what the person said. Chances are you remember what you said but the other side of the conversation is a bit foggy.
Over the past year our church family has been doing something called Dwelling in the Word. We have been looking at Luke 10 and reading it as a congregation and then we are supposed to find a partner and discuss what God has revealed to us that day through the passage. How it has touched our lives or how we have seen it in practice or what we heard for the first time while reading it that day. It’s been a very good listening exercise because after a few minutes with our partners we are invited to share with the larger group what we heard our partner say. I didn’t realize how much improvement I needed to become a good listener until we started doing this. I thought I listened quite well but when asked to share the insights of my partner I found that it was much easier to recall what I said rather than what my partner shared. I don’t think I’m unique in this. People are inherently selfish so it stands to reason that we think our own thoughts are of greater importance than the ideas of the person we are talking to. The problem is if we are practicing this type of listening in our marriages than communication is going to break down.
We need to learn to be patient listeners with our spouses. We need to become practiced at hearing what is said and what is not said. Learn how to draw each other into important conversations. Don’t settle for superficial communication. Learn how to go deep.
When Noel and I were first married and he was getting started in his teaching career I would often get frustrated with our communication. I would ask him how his day went when he came home and he would simply say ‘fine’ but often when we would visit his parents and they asked him the same question he would respond with a laundry list of issues he was struggling with. They (being teachers themselves) would make suggestions and encourage him. They seemed to be able to draw him into the important conversations and Noel would come away feeling like he had a plan to deal with his frustrations. I didn’t know how to draw him into this type of communication and I had little to suggest or comfort to give despite six years of dating.
We had to learn how to do this. When Noel would answer my question with ‘fine’ the conversation would stall and then we would move on to something else. I needed to learn how to ask about specifics of his day and I needed to listen to the answer. I had to learn what he meant when he used a certain tone of voice or a certain phrase. I needed to learn when to bring up certain topics and when to shelve them for a later time. Noel had to learn to save some of his mental and verbal space for conversation with me at the end of his day. He had to learn to listen when I talked and shared problems without telling me how to fix my issue. Sometimes I just wanted a listening ear and some support.
Jesus was the master of listening to the unspoken. When the woman anointed his head with expensive perfume we aren’t told of any conversation but Jesus excepted her gift and called it a beautiful thing. James encourages us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19-20). When listening to our spouse becomes more important to us than our response we are beginning to communicate well. We are demonstrating that we value our partners feelings and thoughts over our own. Everyone wants to be heard. You will get your turn but for now be the one who does the listening. Amazing things await when you practice the power of the listening ear.