When I think of listening I think of music, TV, movies, stories or the pastor in church. They give me information that I need to process, but mostly never do. I listen absent-mindedly to the words and it always feels like I already have enough information for the day and don’t want to let this new information in, because I can’t process them anyway. It goes in one ear and out the other.
This has been a bad habit of mine and it weighs heavy on me. The main problem is that most people don’t realize they are not a good listener. For example, the TV doesn’t give you feedback on how well you’re listening and often the pastor doesn’t really care, as long as his message sticks with somebody. But when you are in a small group or in a one-on-one conversation it is different. It was during these times when I noticed that I didn’t listen that well to my wife. I listened, but I was more like the stereotypical men that are mentioned in jokes about men who don’t understand women.
I can’t tell you what made me become a better listener. Maybe it was my old job, maybe it was the thought of becoming a father, or maybe it’s because my father-in-law is a really good listener. What I do know is that my transformation happened within the last six months. I bought myself a book that I thought would help me learn how to listen more carefully. It said that listening is kind of like reading between the lines, except you’re listening between the words.
In this book I came across a little training lesson and tried it out right away with my wife. I have to admit, I felt stupid having to re-learn such a natural thing like listening, but we chose a theme that we wanted to argue about. The theme: cats or dogs. We decided to defend the animal that we didn’t care for so much. So I had to argue for cats, although I am really a dog person and my wife had to argue for dogs, although she is more of a cat person. It is always harder to take the side of an argument you don’t support, but in this exercise it helps you understand more of the other’s point of view. During this exercise she would bring up an argument for dogs that I would have to repeat in my own words, so that she would be sure I had understood her correctly. This helped her see how her chosen words came across to the receiver and if she was getting her message across.
After a few repeats at home, in a restaurant, and wherever we had the chance, we practiced this form of arguing. We noticed right away how much we understood each other better and how much we responded better to each other. I started looking at my wife in a whole new way. If you ever meet her one day, she can confirm it with a smile on her face.
I can promise too you it will make your wife happier. And you know the saying: „Happy wife, happy life“.