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Article #13: The Art of Listening


Article #13: The Art of Listening

by Mark and Jan Yokers

We, Mark and Jan, were on the island of Murano, Italy, near Venice several years ago. We were walking past a local pub in the middle of the day and noticed loud talking coming from the inside of the pub. We expected to see a pub full of people, a pub that had a dozen or more tables in it, judging by the amount of sound coming out the open entry door. We were shocked to see only four men at one table, and the rest of the place was empty. As we listened, we were amazed that all four were talking at once. They seemed to be having a great time, but we wondered how much actual listening was going on.

How well are we listening to others, and especially to our spouse? Our experience with others is that true listening is rare and often a missing art for many couples. In our own relationship, I, Mark, felt like I never really fully listened to Jan until our 42nd year of marriage. That’s when we encountered the curriculum and teaching of “How We Love,” created by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. Listening is so much harder to do than talking. Yet, it is so vital to a healthy relationship. No wonder James, the half-brother of Jesus, said to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” James 1:19 in the Bible.

So, what does real listening look like? It’s one person fully intent on understanding the heart and mind of the person sharing with them. Many conversations are all too often a collective monologue where each one is airing their own experience rather than being interested in the other’s experiences. And while the other person is talking, the one “listening” is actually “preparing their response.” We’ve all been there.

Someone shares about a recent issue, probably hoping for some empathy, while another quickly gives their own incident details that they seem to feel are much more important. Did the one sharing feel heard and understood? Did they feel comforted by concern and expressed empathy?

Listening is especially difficult when a spouse is concerned about something the other one has done and expresses it. Sometimes, the concern is expressed with blame, accusation, anger, and maybe even belittling. How well does listening go, then? Are they trying to understand what the other is feeling? The typical response is to defend, counter-attack, or flee the scene, depending on the love-style injury (discussed in earlier articles). Things spiral down from there, and the conflict ends with no resolution or understanding. Both feel frustrated and defeated. Another piece to a wall is built.

So, can this cycle be broken? We’re here to say, “Yes, it can!”. Stay tuned. In our next article, we will go deeper into how true listening occurs and the results of it. Just imagine feeling that your spouse really listens to you and cares about what you are feeling. How cool would that be! Have hope!

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