Many of us who co-exist in a relationship are missing some basic communication fundamentals. Consider this exchange:
“I think the problem is that—”
“What, we don’t spend enough time together?”
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“Well, what were you gonna say?”
“I am trying to say it, but you keep cutting me off.”
“That’s because you are not saying anything!”
Conversations like this can happen. We cut our partner off while they are sharing their thoughts. We talk over them. When we do this, we cannot hear whatever they’re saying. And we certainly are not demonstrating that we care about it.
Our fundamental responsibility when we in a relationship is to take care of one another. It’s to take care of one another when we are tired. It is to take care of one another when we have competing priorities. It is to take care of one another when we irritate one another. These were my remarks in a recent speech. Check it out if you get the opportunity.
When our partner speaks to us, they are usually sharing something with us that matters to them. This isn’t a groundbreaking statement. And the most loving, immediate response we get to shower them with is listening. Yes, listening is actually a response.
However, many of us forsake that basic act of care. Instead, we wait for whatever our partner is sharing to end so that we can hear our own voice. This is not loving.
But wait. There’s more. There’s worse. There are times when we are not even willing to let our partner finish talking. We are willing to interrupt them with our response. This is impatient, and it is not loving.
Patience is a form of care. Impatience is a form of intolerance; it is a way we show our partner that we don’t value what they are saying.
If we are being impatient, let’s do a better job. After all, if we tap into the empathy within each of us, we can realize and understand that we all want to be heard and understood. Knowing this, we are charged with giving to our partner what we know they want. Our partner wants to be heard, and we want it too. Listening patiently is a way of taking care of one another.
Moving forward, let’s become intimately aware of the impatient communication we display when we interrupt our partner. Then let’s do something with that awareness. Here are a few suggestions:
- Relax. When our partner is speaking to us, let’s sit back and relax. No grimacing. No eye rolling. No visible signs of irritation. Let our partner’s feelings, emotions, words, and message flow into us. Receive what they are sharing as if we are receptacles for it. We may even need to close our eyes as we listen.
- Be curious. Let’s demonstrate that we care about the sharing by receiving it with curiosity. Be interested. Ask clarifying questions that demonstrate that we are listening. The goal here is for our partner to say something like, “I think you understand.
- Be careful. Before we get to the gold-star result of our partner saying, “I think you understand,” we must pay attention to the types of questions we are asking. Not all questions are rooted in creating clarity. Many of us ask questions with the intent of discrediting our partner or proving them wrong. These are not healthy goals. Our loving goal is to affirm perspectives and work toward a resolution of the concern (when applicable).
- Demonstrate an understanding. Upon receipt of our partner’s share, let’s demonstrate that we heard what they have communicated by speaking our version of it. Please note, our partner may provide additional clarity based on what we have shared if we missed something. And hopefully they will affirm our understanding if we nailed it.
These are steps toward effective listening. There may still be a need to create a resolution together. The resolution process requires additional skills, and we will address those in a different blog.
All of this is self-work. Our partner may be interrupting us too. If that’s the case, share this blog with them.
Patience and listening can be a very loving gift to our relationship. Each of our partners have something important to share. It is important that we listen to their offering so that it is received . . . and that’s loving.
Watch Frank Love’s presentation, “The Act of Caring.”
Frank Love coaches individuals who are in (or wish to be in) a relationship on ways to create a loving culture in their relationship. He is also the author of “Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway)” and “25 Ways to Be Loving.” To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.