Have you ever said something and had your spouse totally misunderstand what you were trying to say? And then they responded based on what they THINK they heard, but it was all wrong? And then you tried to clarify it, but they were stuck on what they think they heard but you didn’t mean?
Yeah…it’s never happened to us either. 🙂 There’s Cuban proverb that “Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world.” And that sums up the challenge we all face. We know what we think, we try to communicate it in words. The other person “hears” what we say and filters it through their emotions, experience, and perceptions and thoughts. Then they respond through that grid and the cycle of mis-communication starts swirling.
Here’s how to break into that cycle and actually hear what each other is saying. It’s called Reflective Listening, or Mirroring. It’s a powerful way to actually understand each other. It will help you connect more deeply and show honor and respect in the process.
Here’s how it works. When your spouse is describing something to you, listen carefully to what they say. When they are done, repeat back in your own words what you heard. This gives them an opportunity to clarify until you “get” it. Once they are convinced they have been actually heard, you can respond.
Some common reflective phrases you might use would be:
“So what you are thinking is….”
“You’re saying that you feel….”
“Can you tell me more about that?”
“It sounds like you….”
“Help me understand….”
Try it today. It may take some practice, but these tools can help your spouse feel heard and give you the confidence that you are responding with greater accuracy and less misunderstanding.
You may be thinking, “This would take too long! I already know what they are saying…I don’t need to keep asking for my spouse to tell me more or explain more.” Perhaps…but the gift of your full listening is a gift of love which your spouse needs. AND…it takes a lot longer—and more energy—to repair miscommunication.
A little effort and time up front can go a long way as you Build Your Marriage!