Is he even listening to me?
Several years ago, a popular wireless company had a series of television commercials where an employee would walk from place to place saying “Can you hear me now?” to highlight their outstanding coverage. The commercials were cute, but they also highlighted an important point. It can be extremely frustrating when you are talking to someone, and they cannot hear you. This is also true for face to face conversations and especially true in marriage. How many times have you told your spouse something only to have them swear you never mentioned it? Probably quite a few. An occasional occurrence of this can be overlooked, but if it happens often, we need to get to the root cause of the problem…..
Let me start by saying that I do not think we intentionally ignore each other. Our world is filled with more distractions than ever, and much like learning styles, I think people have different listening styles as well.
So how in the world do I make my spouse be a better listener? Well, it actually starts with making sure the time is right to communicate. Is the TV blaring? Are the kids running around screaming? Is your spouse glued to his/her phone? If the answer to any (or all) of these questions is yes, then that is definitely NOT the time to have an important conversation. Our brains just cannot process and retain information if there are too many things vying for our attention. If your home is like mine, you probably feel like a quiet “perfect” moment is rare, and by the time it comes, you’ve forgotten everything you needed to say. I want to give you a list of 3 things that can help you avoid the frustration of forgotten conversations and help you connect on a more personal level with each other.
- Find time to talk each day when there aren’t distractions. Be intentional. Put down the phone, turn off the tv, and send the kids outside to play, or wait until after they have gone to bed. If you have to physically put “Talk Time” on your family calendar for a specific time each day, DO IT! It is that important.
- Keep a notebook! Write down things that you want to tell your significant other as they happen throughout the day. You can include big news, funny stories, or even times you were just thinking about them. There are no wrong answers! This keeps you from forgetting to share important things, and it helps you have more meaningful conversations. You will find that you are excited to discuss the things on your list!
- Figure out how your spouse listens best. My husband’s brain is always going in 100 different directions. He can be looking at me and seem completely undistracted yet be writing in sermon, thinking about Greek words, and calculating stats from some random sporting event inside his head. Early in our marriage, I would get so frustrated because I felt like he forgot everything I ever told him. I eventually learned that it wasn’t intentional. I just needed to make sure he was truly listening. Now we have a system. If I need to tell him something important, I always say “Look at my face,” then proceed to tell him what I need to say. This is not me being bossy or demanding. He does not view it that way at all. It actually helps him turn off the other things in his head to be able to retain what I am saying. Of course, I say it with kindness and not hostility. Maybe you or your spouse listens best while eating or while driving. Figure out the best places and the best phrases to be sure you have each others’ undivided attention.
I realize that on paper most of these things sound silly, but if you are feeling frustrated and ignored, I assure you these things help. One of the most important keys to a successful and happy marriage is communication. If you can figure out the best way to talk as a couple, you will see that other areas will also begin to click into place.