Conflict # 26 – Listening

Every couple receiving therapy says, “We don’t communicate.” Equally common is the complaint from wives, “He doesn’t listen.”

To ensure that we’re talking the same language, I ask, “What does communication mean to you?” Is it the simple act of having a casual conversation? Does it require understanding? Caring? Is it about doing something together without talking? Is it touch? A gesture? All of the above?

When we communicate, one person sends a message and the other person receives it. The receiving – that is, ‘listening’ – can come through any of the five senses, even smell. Imagine your husband comes home, you give him a hug, your lips touch his shirt collar and you notice the aroma of lipstick.

We are addressing the topic of listening because experts agree that, to communicate effectively, accurate listening is at least as important as accurate talking.

Consider the tale of two clients, “Joan” and “John”, good, hard-working people. During her childhood Joan was bullied, and her mother belittled her and criticized her severely. She suffers from anxiety, extreme sensitivity to criticism and she doesn’t like it when John tells her, “No”. They both work and they have two children. They love each other, but they argue a lot, usually over money. When they argue – sometimes because she wants to buy something a little pricey – he uses critical language and tells her, “No”. The moment that happens, she no longer hears his voice; instead, she hears her mother’s critical, negative, angry voice. In reaction to that, she either shuts down or she becomes defiant.

This reaction is common for people who have been abused, as she was. Painful childhood memories pop up when stress gets too hard to take. If we allow those memories to trigger us, we go back in time, mentally. We re-experience the fear; then the fight-flight hormones kick in and emotion takes over. In this state of mind, communication is impossible.

Everyone knows that clear communication is essential to conflict management. Now we see that our reaction to painful memories can muddy up our view of what’s actually happening. But, if you learn to silence those memories and only respond to what’s happening in the present moment, a whole new world opens up to you.

That can happen. I know this for a fact because I’ve seen my clients do it. You can do it, too. If you’re ready to get going on the road to a happier, more peaceful life, please call 219-309-3928 for a free consultation. It will be a pleasure to talk to you.

Thanks for reading!