In conclusion, I am going to leave you with one more word of guidance from Dr. John Van Epp and his book, “How to Avoid Falling In Love With a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind.” This should be able to help you and your spouse have better communication, which is related to the last article about conversation.
Listening can be so hard. We’re busy, we’re doing something, we’re not that interested, or whatever our excuse is, is one excuse too many. Listening is a crucial part of our communication. So why is it something that we don’t see as that serious? How can we change that?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are having trouble figuring out if you are a bad listener. Do you look somewhere else while your spouse talks? Do you not give your spouse the attention they need when they are speaking? Are you thinking about other things, like what’s happening tomorrow, while your spouse tries to connect with you? If you answered yes to one of these questions, then it seems like there are some things that you can work on.
One thing that you can consciously think about while conversing with your spouse are the nonverbal messages that you are sending and receiving. Van Epp says, “Many times the nonverbal messages speak more loudly than the verbal. This is one reason why you should pay attention to your intuition, hunches, inner feelings, and vices around your partner…Make sure you are “reading” the other person correctly so that you don’t jump to the wrong conclusions!” Have you ever been listening to what your spouse is saying and you just start assuming what they are trying to say? Or have you ever been talking and your spouse has a defensive posture on accident and you get upset? If this happens you can sit down with your spouse and talk about what these things mean to you. Ask them why they do certain things while listening to see what they are thinking in those moments. He went on to say, “Your interpretation of his or her nonverbal can become a topic in a future discussion, which will help clarify your understanding of what that person usually means by his or her body language.”
So now you’re intrigued by what a good listener might do and practice? Good! Van Epp has described what to do for just that! He said, “Listening is more than just passive silence.” Try to make your spouse feel engaged while you listen. Make them feel like you understand what they are saying (it also will really help if you do understand.) He also said that the more personal they get the more important it is for you to listen!
While Van Epp was in college, he was taught an acronym to help listeners listen better. It’s called SOLER.
Square Off – make sure your shoulders are square with the person talking.
Open – keep your arms and legs uncrossed so that you have an open, nondefensive position.
Lean – lean forward toward the person talking.
Eye Contact – keep eye contact with the person talking.
Relax – stay relaxed as you listen.
This acronym can help you be more in tune with your spouse as you listen. You will also be more willing to not just hear what they are saying but to think about what it is they are talking about.
Van Epp included that some people may feel a little ashamed and won’t admit that they are not great listeners though they want to be better. He assures that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Having a desire to strengthen this skill will enhance your communication with your spouse, as long as you do try and work on it. It will be something that will most likely receive praise over, not humiliation.
Lastly, in order to have a well-balanced conversation, both parties need to participate equally. He says, “There should be similar amounts of listening, talking, disclosing, and initiation between you and the person you are dating [married to.]” You can talk about interests, hobbies, career, family, values, and perspectives on life to create a conversation.
In turn, these helps will create a better foundation for conflict resolution. It is never a bad idea to strengthen yourself and your relationship with your spouse!