By Kermit Rowe
A recent daily email for married couples from legendary marriage ministry FamilyLife called “I Do Every Day” posed a question that caught my attention. It asked: “How good are you at listening to your spouse?”
Huh? (just kidding, LOL)
Seriously, if we’re honest, most of us would answer that question by grading how good we think we are at listening to our other half. And our answer would probably be more favorable than the actual truth.
The truth is that listening to our spouse is hard work, and the more we put into it the more we will get back. Getting in the way is our overbearing desire to be heard, to a point where it drowns out what our spouse is saying while we are focused on formulating what we are going to say next.
The fix? The power of the extra question!
That’s right. We listen better when we listen well enough to be able to ask a follow-up question if needed. It forces us into what is called active listening, or also known as reflective listening. This is when we tune into what our spouse is saying to us well enough that we can summarize what they are saying. When we do, we follow up with a question like, “So what you are saying is …” or “So what I think I am hearing you say is …” Then wait until you get an answer.
You didn’t understand what they were saying after first extra question? Then ask another question. It might sound something like “I think I understand what you are saying, but just to be clear, you said ____________ . Is that correct?” Then follow this line of questioning until you are sure you understand what your spouse means by what they said. Even if it means another question or two. Your extra effort will show your spouse that you are working hard to understand them and value what they are saying.
Imagine the confusion and hard feelings that could be avoided if we would exercise the power of the extra question? Imagine the positive impact that it would have on the atmosphere in your home.
How do you know if you truly are a good listener? According to the FamilyLife email article, some other things you can do are:
At Encompass, we have noticed through the years of ministering to over 41,000 individuals that couples who come to us and are having trouble with their relationship typically are struggling with their communication, and therefore their conflict resolution as well. Mastering the art of asking the extra question can clarify and defuse many of the smaller disagreements that tend to grow into large ones and threaten our intimacy and marriage.
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Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.