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To enhance relationship between couples

Listen to the True Meaning In One Another’s Words

Communicating through speech and listening is very important for couples. Yet, we often hear couples complaining about one another: “You never listen to what I have said” or “You never respond to what I have said”. As “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus”, men are good at solving problems, while women focus on expressing their feelings. As such, conflicts inevitably occur in communications between both genders. To be well-versed in the four stages of effective communication: Listen→Analyse→Organise→Respond, we need to remember to ” be good at listening and not rush to speak”. Develop good listening habits serve to maintain quality family relations, improve communication skills, establish trust and empathy. With good communications, couples can sustain a successful marriage and grow old happily together.

When our loved ones tell us their difficulties or have questions for us, most of us habitually respond by readily give opinions or solutions to resolve their problems. However, often our loved ones have no intentions of seeking help. They may only be wishing to have someone listen to their experience as a means to relieve their frustrations or to seek comfort. Hence, spending some time each day listening to our partner attentively, without giving any opinions, enhances and strengthens our relationship.

Being Corrected Instead of Being Comforted – An Unexpected Outcome

Counsellor Chloe Cheung indicates that because men are used to share their views and provide guidance, they often overlook in paying attention to what their wives have to say when conversing. As such, the husbands fail to understand their wives’ feelings and intent, therefore causing knots of negative emotions and thoughts on part of the wives. There is a case when the wife encountered difficulties at work (colleagues giving her a hard time and her superior exerting unreasonable demands), and confided to her husband her problems.  The husband started analysing her situation after hearing what she had said. He concluded that her predicament came about because she said the wrong things and made the wrong decisions at work. His wife did not expect such responses. She simply wanted to let off steam and to let her husband know that she was unhappy. At the same time, she desired to lean on him for support, to relieve her stress and be comforted. “During such times, I suggest that the listener repeats some of the words spoken by the speaker. This action provides the effect of sharing negative emotions as a companion. Often men feel the need to assist, not to just merely listen. Given that there is a presenting problem, men believe that they should provide the solutions to the problem. Although such behaviour may not cause immediate fights between the couple, the switch from a desire to lean on the husband and be comforted, to being corrected about the her work, is not what the wife would have hoped for.  This difference in communication style could gradually lead to conflicts as the wife may feel that her husband is not supportive and to some extent, feel that he is belittling her.”

Listen Not Only With Your Ears, Observe With Your Eyes Too

Chloe highlights that during conversations, when someone expresses that he or she is unhappy, we often respond with phrases such as:  “Don’t think this way! Don’t be unhappy!”. These responses are not helpful as they make the confiding party feel that they do not even have the right to be unhappy, and it is wrong for them to be upset. The word “Don’t” can prevent us from confronting and addressing our unhappiness at that particular moment, and it makes us feel that we “have done something wrong.”  At the same time, the word “Don’t” embeds an undertone of ordering someone. Avoid using it as it gives the wrong impression of speaking down to someone.

A good listener maintains an open mind and an attentive heart. After careful listening, she/ he responds sincerely by summarising the speaker’s words without giving any personal opinions. Such responses let the loved one know that the listener understand what she/ he is saying. This provides the speaker with some “space” in her/ his thoughts, and at the same time making her / him feel being supported and comforted.

When spending quality time together as a couple, try holding your partner’s hands and use your eyes to observe, in addition to listening to the conversation with your ears. Observe wholeheartedly to your partner’s bodily reactions, facial expressions and emotions, and apply attentive listening to communicate effectively.

To be a Better Listener, Understand the Rules and Develop Good Listening Habits:

  1. Learn to listen attentively, regardless of the speaker’s ways of expression or inappropriate use of words, and be attentive to the underlying meaning and thoughts behind the conversation.
  2. Avoid providing subjective opinions, do not rush into giving solutions or guidance.
  3. Empty your mind, and maintain being open minded
  4. Find some quality time to have a heartfelt conversation, turn off mobile phones and create a comfortable conducive environment for communication just between the couple.

The Companions
Chloe Cheung

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