Sometimes we hear advice that is familiar so we ignore it even if we aren’t practicing it; It’s called a well-worn path. The Bible calls it not having ears to hear. Ouch!
Communication, like baseball, is learned over time with lots of practice and mistakes. Since marriage is a life-long commitment, we can’t just check out of the game. We must look for ways to increase our batting average, in season and out, for the sake of our marriage.
We’ve heard it said that the best way to improve in an area of physical training is to confuse your muscles. Do something different each time you practice so your muscles can’t predict what’s coming. It requires your entire body to be engaged in the training, not just auto-piloting through the workout.
So it is with communication. Try something different and see if your listening doesn’t improve.
- Listen with your eyes. Many times our spouse is speaking to us about something important to them, but because it isn’t important to us we respond with a half-interested, “Uh-huh.” We may be on our smart phone, looking at the computer, playing a video game or reading a book, when our spouse walks into the room and begins talking. Stop what you’re doing and look in their eyes. Don’t allow distractions to intercept this bid of attention your spouse is throwing your way. Of course, there are times when what you are doing is important and an interruption isn’t helpful. In those moments I encourage you to stop, look your spouse in the eyes and ask them if they could wait until you are finished. Then, make sure you take the time to pursue them afterward. Our eyes are easily distracted, so fixing them on our spouse when they are communicating to us will keep distractions to a minimum.
- Talk with your ears. This goes with what I said in #1. If you have something you would like to talk with your spouse about, don’t assume that they are ready to give you their full attention. Walk into the room with your “ears open and your mouth shut,” as my 9th grace Science teacher used to tell her loud, immature students. Our spouse deserves our courtesy.
Practicing these two communication skills will go a long way in helping you both grow in the way you speak and listen to each other. Who knows? You might just discover a deeper level of intimacy in the process. Now that’s a home run!