This past Sunday we talked about communicating in a Godly way and how it depends a lot on two things: 1) Undistracted time to talk (turn off the tv, put down the cell-phone, etc.) and Listening With Empathy.
Here are some notes about listening with empathy. As you read them, be honest with yourself about how well you do each one.
1) Use “I” statements when you share.
– There’s a big difference between saying “You never spend time with the kids and me” and “I” feel lonely a lot of the time”.
– When you focus on how you are feeling, it keeps the other person in the conversation from feeling attacked and from the need to be defensive
2) Listen with an attitude of understanding
– Usually, we try to get the other person to see where we are coming from, instead of understanding their point of view.
– To make sure you understand what they are saying, restate their position before moving on to other points. This way, they can let you know if you have it right or not. (“I hear you saying…”)
3) Withhold judgment on the other’s ideas.
– If we listen with the idea that we’re going to “straighten them out”, we’ll never understand what they are saying, because instead of really listening for how he or she is feeling, we’ll listen for ways we can pick apart what they is saying.
– This is not easy, especially if they are saying something you disagree with. Remember, you are trying to understand where they are coming from, not fix the problem.
4) Affirm the other person, even if you disagree with what he or she is saying.
– This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything your spouse is saying.
– You share your appreciation with them that they are being open and honest with you.
– This is a big step because it gives them the freedom to share without fear of being attacked. (“Thank you for sharing that with me. I can tell it’s been weighing on you…”)
5) Share your own ideas only when the person you’re communicating with feels understood.
– Buy nature, we’re quick to give our own ideas.
– If necessary, pass something back an forth, and only the person who has it is allowed to talk. The passed item doesn’t get passed until the partner feels like he or she has been heard. This stops most arguments before they start.
For further thought and action (feel free to post comments so we can all share in the discussion):
– Think about the times we see Jesus communicate in the Bible. Are the times he doesn’t follow these? If so, when are they?
– Which of these are hardest for you to do? Why?
Challenge: Today, listen with your heart before you listen with your head. What does it feel like? Does it affect the way you communicate? How?