Do you hear correctly, as it pertains to what your spouse is trying to say to you? The saying goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. He wants us to be better prepared to listen than to speak.” That sure goes along with the Bible verse that says, “Take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
For some reason, listening seems to be a skill that too many of us (ourselves included) under-use. We often defer to the “How-can-I-get-you-to-shut-up-and-listen-to-me?” mind-set. In reality we need to replace it with a “What-can-I-do-to-create-a-safe-place-where-understanding-can-take-root-and-grow?” attitude.
Hear and Be Wise
The Bible says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15) Are you being wise and seeking out knowledge about your spouse? We’re not talking about just regurgitating what they say and then voicing what you’d decided to say anyway? Are you truly listening to not only to their words and to the meaning behind their words? That’s difficult to do. That is because it takes self-discipline, discernment and selflessness.
Please take note of what author H. Norman Wright writes on the topic of listening, from the book, How to Change Your Spouse without Ruining Your Marriage. We can all learn something concerning what we hear. This is what Dr Wright says on this subject:
To Hear VS to Listen
Is there a difference between listening and hearing? Yes, there is. Hearing is gaining content or information for your own purposes. Listening is caring for and being empathic toward the person who is talking. Hearing means that you’re concerned about what’s going on inside yourself during the conversation. Listening means you’re trying to understand the feelings of your spouse and are listening for the sake of the other person. Let me give you a threefold definition of listening.
Listening means that when your spouse is talking to you:
• You’re not thinking about what you’re going to say when he or she stops talking. You aren’t busy formulating your response. Plus, you’re concentrating on what is being said and are putting it into practice. “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.“ (Proverbs 18:13) It also means you’re looking at the person and listening with your eyes as well as with your ears.
• You’re accepting what is being said without judging what he or she is saying or how it’s being said. You may fail to hear the message if you’re thinking that you don’t like your spouse’s tone of voice or words. As a result, you may react to the tone and content and miss the meaning. Perhaps your spouse hasn’t said it in the best way. But why not listen and come back later when both of you are calm and discuss the proper wording and tone of voice? Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to agree with the content of what is said. Rather, it means that you understand that what your spouse is saying is something he or she feels is important.
• You should be able to repeat what your spouse has said and what you think he or she was feeling while speaking to you. Real listening implies an obvious interest in your spouse’s feelings and opinions. Plus, there’s an attempt to understand them from their perspective. It means you let your partner know, “I hear and understand what you’re saying, and I want to respond.”
When you listen to another person, you can actually disarm him or her, especially when you’re being criticized. Arguing with a critic rarely works but agreeing builds a closer relationship. When you listen you don’t defend yourself, but neither do you have to agree with all that is said. If you can find some small element of truth to agree with, your spouse will be less on the offensive and more open to listening to you and considering your request. As a result, your desire for him or her to change may receive consideration.
We’re sorry to say that the book, How to Change Your Spouse is out of print. But the message is vital. Marriage puts us in the position to continually make important choices to partner with each other to build bridges of communication. Keep in mind what the Bible says:
“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2) “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5)
We pray this message ministers to your marriage.
Cindy and Steve Wright
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