21st September, 2012
Almost any book you grab on relationships is likely to have a section on communication. People hear too often how relationships are built on communication and the effect its poor attempt could spill.
This, I guess has made us focus so much on what to say, how to say and when to really say it. There is yet another aspect which is least explored-LISTENING; and to the contrary it’s one basic cause of problems.
It’s assumed that if your ears are functioning properly, you should be able to listen and follow whatever is being said in a language known to you-listening to a strange language in conversation turns out most times to be a waste of time since your brain has not been trained to form images to describe what is said.
So effective listening commences from the premise of common language of communication. Speaking a familiar language on its own is not a guarantee you’ll be understood as a lot come between the speaker and the hearer.
There are both external and internal factors identified as challenges to good listening. A troubled mind has a lot of work to do; calming the soul to be able to absorb information, noise and interruption from immediate surrounding could be very irritating as well, trying to figure out answers while the person is still speaking is a complete distraction, judging the sense in what is being heard hinders a great deal and preparing defensive answers ruin the whole essence of talking.
I would have shared this before in one of my articles: The clock read 5.30 p.m. on a Sunday evening. Thomas, my darling husband had a long day at church, moving from one meeting to the other and rounding off with administrative support for his Pastor.
A typical Sunday goes in similar coil, getting home is planned for a bit of unwinding followed by preparation to start the following week. Just as he was settling down in front of the TV to flip through his recorded programme, Match Of The Day”, the door bell rang and a family friend walked in without the members of his household; this was quite strange, they loved visiting together.
After the initial greetings and all, Thomas continued with his match review. The man on the other hand, started a conversation about how his wife has been so sick and was actually in the hospital on admission.
I told him gently it wasn’t a good time to discuss such an important issue but he felt probably I didn’t want him to talk to my husband about it.
To his greatest shock, when the game ended, Thomas turned to him and asked why he didn’t come visiting with his wife and children as usual.
Can you imagine how that man felt? Ignored!!! But I told him it’s difficult to get my husband to listen and understand you when there’s a football match going on. Anyway, he had to repeat the whole story but I was not there to hear the conclusion.
That was a case of external factor —football hindering listening; but how many individual thoughts flying through our minds, while we are trying to listen, can we keep track of?
This brings us to the agreement that listening is not a popular dimension of communication sought after by many yet, it holds the very string that delivers result —response. The basic reason for talking to people is to get their response, either verbally or implied, making sure the information was absorbed.
Listening makes your loved ones feel worthy, accepted, interesting and respected. The more you listen to someone, the more he/she feels important.
Listening in a relationship is what I’ll call ‘Emotional Listening’. Your husband/wife is not just another person you’re trying to communicate with; they expect a deeper level of understanding in situations others would regard as ordinary. They expect both sympathy and empathy as a result of your listening or taking adequate action as a proof of love. Ella and Ernest have been seen to be a good couple but no one knows the pains in Ella’s heart as she daily fights with feelings that her husband does not truly love her.
She just lost her father who did all the work of bringing her up from childhood after the early demise of her mom. It’s such an emotional blow, too strong for her to contend so she turned to her husband and lamented how much she’ll miss her father and what he meant to her.
Ernest, instead of listening to his wife emotionally, brought logic to the whole matter and rather got her more wounded. He told her she was old enough to look after herself and family. Reminding Ella of how mature and organised she is expected to be in times like this is the last thing she ever wanted to hear from a husband. May be a priest/pastor would be tolerated but she needed her man to be feel what she was feeling and reassure her of his love.
When she broke down and told the husband “you’ve never been there for me in times of need”, the man felt really insulted. Now, the truth is this, women are principally emotional beings while men deal and understand logic. This does not mean that men do not have emotions or women are illogical; it simply tells us the areas they do better.
The use of the word “never” by Ella made Ernest automatically defensive and in fact tempted to recall instances he’s gone out of his way to make her happy but indeed, the point Ella was making is something like: “I’ll love to have your full support and love now that my father is dead”.
All Ernest needed to do was hold his wife closely and assure her he’ll do more than what her father ever did for her and she would be fine. This is where men have problems with women in relationships. A woman expects you to read her mood, mind and statement and come up with a favourable answer while a man tells you what he means and waits for your response. Sometimes, when a woman tells you no, she simply wants to see you persevere and show more interest in her.
A man on the other hand can utterly misunderstand a woman’s smile to mean “I’m dying for you” when she has no such intensions at all. Whatever the case, we need to be careful in our relationships and let love govern our actions and reactions; this way, things would be easier to handle even when we’ve been misunderstood or insulted.
Listening is harder in conflict or disagreement situations. Passing and receiving information from others may sound simple but this is where we’ve all missed it in life, be it at work, play or home. Listening should not only be limited to the words people are speaking but should be extended to the solution they desire. Emotional listening involves evaluating feelings and trying to understand the need of the speaker.
To be a good listener, you should: Listen with your whole attention —eye contact, facial expressions, voice, nodding and all necessary gestures.
Listen with respect, listen without thinking of what to defend, listen to feelings/fears or trouble areas and try not to judge.
When your listening is right, your response is very likely to be accurate.