Last week at work, we had a session on effective communication. I know I can see the collective eye roll. Most of the people I work with are technical in nature, and I thought this was good training for all of us. As I sat through the workshop, I began to think about how many times my marriage has been affected by communication and most importantly listening.
Before I got married, I thought I had talked to my then girlfriend about her birthday. I thought she said it was okay if I waited until the weekend to take her out and celebrate. Thank goodness her roommate called me at 10:30 pm to warn me I better do something. If she hadn’t, I am guessing we would have never been married.
More than words
On that day, way back when, I thought listening was just done with your ears. As I have been married a few years, I have slowly begun to pick up on many nonverbal clues my wife puts out. The way someone looks at you and the tone responding can give you more clues to what is being said.
Where we hold our arms and how we stand are two big clues on what we are trying to communicate. There have been entire articles and books on reading body language. If someone’s hands fidget, it can show boredom or anxiety. If their arms are crossed tightly, this can be a sign of anger.
When we want to give someone our attention, we need to make eye contact. I have made the mistake of watching television or staring at a computer screen many times when I should have been looking at my wife. Of course, don’t stare at your phone either when you are trying to talk with someone. Nothing screams “you are not that important!” more than this.
Watching someone’s eyes can help you interpret what is being said, but the face shows a great deal. Perhaps it is a furrowed brow or quizzical look. Facial expressions can reveal a great deal. I like to watch people’s faces when we have meetings to see if the message and face align.
It’s for her
In the communication workshop I discussed earlier, the presenter reminded us that the communication and, in this case, the listening is not about us, but about others. In this case, we listen to our wife and others. That might be something that you have never thought about. When I first heard this, I had to let this settle in.
Nod your head
One lesson I have learned to help people know you are engaged is by simply nodding your head as they are talking occasionally. We don’t want you to turn into a bobble head but show you are present. To some, this seems very simplistic, although a small movement can show your intent.
Re-phrase the comment
As you listen to your wife talking once she completes, re-phrase what she said back to her. I have used this gesture with family and friends, and you can show someone you are listening. Many people think about what they are going to say the next time the other stops talking, this leads to talking pass one another not connecting.
Keep an Open Mind
This is a tough one as with our relationships; we tend to have some baggage on certain topics. For couples, this can be amplified. Try not to think, “oh, she is not going there again” when your wife dives into familiar territory. Too many times we have a knee jerk reaction about sensitive topics we talk about. If we want to find real resolutions to our problems we need to know our tendencies.
Along with keeping an open mind is the important reminder not to interrupt your wife. When she covers well know topics, we want to cut her off and tell her what we already know. I have been guilty of this many times and try to work on allowing my wife to finish.
As your wife is sharing, you need to understand the emotions she is sharing and try to empathize with her. If she shares joy or sadness, make sure you show that you are with them on both accounts. I know from personal experience when I share something I am proud of, and your spouse doesn’t understand or empathize you feel like it is not as important.
How does she listen
A communication technique I remember learning previously was how to mirror or reflect on the other person. If your wife is talking to you leaning in you, show her interest by also leaning in. Next time you talk with your wife take some time to notice her posture and how she is talking to you. Look at all these suggestions and see if they can help you connect better with your spouse.
Photo: Flickr/ Steven Shorrock