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Listen Long Enough to Effectively Coach Your Own Marriage by Jeff and Jill Williams

Nov 30th, 2010 | By | Category: Family Coaching Center

“Can I say something now?” asked the wife of the couple we were coaching through a conflict. It’s a frequent request, and our response is usually the same, “No, not yet, listen a little bit longer and continue reflecting what you are hearing.  Soon it will be your turn.”

The husband had been convinced to share his honest thoughts and feelings.  We were protecting his opportunity to be fully heard and understood, and thereby protecting their marriage, but she’d heard enough. Some emotional triggers had been tripped and she was having a hard time restraining herself.  They admitted that this is how it goes at home; a competition to be heard.  Things would work better if they engaged a competition to hear, but that requires dying to self which is easier said than done.

Listening long enough; long enough for what?  In our experience, when we listen long enough we significantly increase the chances that our partner will feel heard, be understood, and have adequate opportunity to vent their emotions. AND, they will have ample opportunity to hear themselves which provides an opportunity for self-observation and sometimes leads to self-correction.

Let’s take each of these outcomes in turn:

Feeling Heard and Understood: When we listen long enough with good heart and skill our partner is likely to conclude that we “get it” and that we care.  That’s definitely a deposit into their love bank that can go a long way to enhance or restore pleasure in your relationship.

Emotional Acceptance: When we listen long enough to our partner’s feelings, they might conclude that it is ok to be honest and open about what they really feel.  The results of this go deep.  Think about how it makes you feel when someone patiently listens to your honest feelings without interrupting to tell you how they feel, or how you should feel, or what’s wrong with your feelings: Their patient listening communicates their support for you to feel what you feel.  Even if they don’t agree with the basis of your feelings they respect and care about you enough to try to understand by listening, and to give you an opportunity to de-escalate.

Self-understanding: When we listen long enough we communicate confidence that the person speaking can figure some things out on their own by listening to themselves.  Patient listening says that we respect the other person’s capacity to analyze the basis of their feelings and to formulate a strategy to deal with them.  Lengthy listening gives the speaker time to hear and think about what they’ve heard themselves say instead of having to contend with our thoughts and feelings about what they said.  Ironically, it is our patient listening and silence that can expedite our partner’s self-understanding.

Relational Equity: Finally, when we listen long enough we earn equity in the relationship to be heard.  And when we speak, we are more apt to be on the mark per more in depth understanding of the honest thoughts, feelings and desires of the person to whom we’ve been listening.

Often, the person that has been generously listened to eventually pauses to ask, “What do you think?  I’d like to hear from you about what I’ve said, or what you think about this topic/situation, etc.”

Practical Tip: When you feel the urge to speak, ask yourself if you’ve listened long enough.  Even better, ask the person you’re listening to, “Is there more you would like to say, or more that you would like me to understand?” NOT, “Are you done yet?

The bulk of this article is about a skill and the benefits of using it, but it won’t work unless one’s heart is in a posture of unselfish humility that says to others, “You are important.  What you think and feel is important to me; important enough that I will die to my desire to be heard and wait to be invited to share. Until then, it’s about you.”

What do you think?  How has listening long enough worked for you, or how could it?

Jeff and Jill Williams write and speak about Marriage Coaching.  Together they privately coach couples and train groups of couples that want to coach marriages through a series of tele-classes that are accessible for any couple (globally) with a phone and internet connection.  Write to or call 937-717-5591 937-717-5591     for more information.

Copyright 2010 Jeffrey J. Williams | Grace & Truth Relationship Education | Springfield| OH | 45503



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