Communication is one of the most important constituents in our life. Everyday we use some form of communication. We know how to read, write and speak. In fact we do it very well. What about listening? Listening in a way that you understand the other person from his or her own viewpoint and feelings, not from yours. Before offering advice to anyone, like your spouse, and expecting them to accept it, you must really make the effort to first understand what they are trying to say. Not just the words that are coming out their mouth but the feelings attached to them as well. You have to listen with an open mind and no prejudice. We usually listen so we can reply, we are either always speaking or preparing to speak and just can’t wait to tell them our take on their situation. We do all this before even understanding them.
Here are four things we typically do when others speak to us. We ignore them, not really listening. We pretend to listen and nod our head “Yeah. Uh-huh. Right Right.” We listen selectively and hear only bits and pieces. We listen attentively and really pay attention to the words. But not many of us listen with empathy. Listening closely to really understand the emotions and feelings behind these words. Your spouse won’t be talking to you if they didn’t feel the need to. You hold that special place in their lives; keep that respect by just listening.
Statistics say only about 10% of our communication is through words, 30% is by sound and 60% is body language. Listening with empathy means to not only use your ears, but your eyes and your heart. We are so quick to add how we feel and tell our side of the story; “OMG! Yeah I know EXACTLY how you feel. Same here, I also…” It’s not about you. They are talking to you to be expressive, to connect, to inform you because they feel you are worth their time. If it were about you, then you would be the one speaking and hoping your spouse would listen.
The greatest need for a human is to be understood, affirmed and appreciated. If we take this away then everything else is just superficial. Quite often we try to figure the other person out, we interpret and assume based on our own experiences, motives and behavior. Everyone is unique regardless of how many similar qualities you may share as a couple. Humans are so scripted that sometimes we already know the answer before the question has been heard.
The most honest and well-rounded person to walk this earth was the Prophet (SWAS). He(SWAS) wasn’t just our Messenger, but also a counselor, a wise judge, a devoted father and a righteous husband. Not only did he fulfill all his responsibilities but also excelled at each one. He treated everyone in his Ummah in a way that was compatible with that person’s character and personality. As much as he preached the message, he also listened to his companions and gave importance to their viewpoints and feelings. This only increased the respect given to him by his companions and others alike.
You choose your spouse as much as they choose you. Try for once to just listen to them and control the urge to interrupt with your personal experiences. Concur what they are saying by using words of affirmation and empathy. If you have listened well, they themselves will ask you for your advice or point of view. Just be patient, you will have your chance. A person is more receptive to advice if they are given the chance to be heard completely and understood wholeheartedly.
Understand before being understood. It’s only fair!