Just like the character’s in the Wizard of Oz, we all have stories we tell ourselves that end up limiting us and our growth.
You're outdoorsy and he's a gamer. Your mom has a new passion for cross-stitching and tennis and that’s all she talks about. Your office mate just hiked another 14er....again.
I've been hearing a lot from clients who are struggling with relating in their relationships. This is part of one of a two part series to help you (re)connect in relationships.
Part of the disconnect can be that you aren't listening, aren't listening well, or aren't listening to the connective material in the other person's story. Here are some tips to start listening better.
- Show up. Like really show up. Be present. Eliminate, or at least minimize, distractions, and focus on listening.
- Stay engaged (non verbals). Listening is not a passive, spectator sport. I'm sure you have had someone passively hear you while they are checking Facebook, people watching, randomly and dispassionately saying "uh-huh", or totally spacing out. And I'm sure you've had someone actually be there, hold space for your words and feelings, and actively engage in the conversation by listening. Do that.
- Listen for understanding. Don't listen just for your opportunity to make a point. Not just to get in a jab or a punch line. Not to one up you or turn the conversation back to yourself. Listen for emotions. Listen for thoughts or reactions that give you a glimpse into the other’s life. Listen so the other person leaves feeling seen and known. Listen to others how you like others to listen to you.
- It makes conversations more connective.
- It can reduce conflict, sometimes people escalate in order to be heard
- When people feel heard, they are likely to listen
- It's kind and validating for the other person
- Why not!?!
Brent Atkinson describes this step in the following terms. “Let your partner know that you’re willing to keep an open mind to the potential merit of their viewpoint. If a decision needs to be made, be willing to be flexible and attempt to find a middle ground.” He goes on to say that successful relationships operate like a democracy - every person gets one vote and every vote counts equally without having to prove why their reasoning is valid.
Researchers can’t always tell in an argument what success looks like while couples are going at it. Success sometimes shows up at the end of the argument. When 2 people are willing to give equal regard to their partner’s point of view, even if they staunchly disagree, that’s where the success lies.
When one person tries to diminish another’s feeling, priorities or opinions, they are standing on shakey ground. These aren’t facts, they are belief systems. Stop thinking that your beliefs are the best. The obviously perfect example is all over the news right now. Trump vs Hillary. Thank goodness when you go to the polls you won’t have to defend your pick! So stop putting your partner / spouse / best friend on the defensive, you won’t win. You are only building up resentment. Be a superstar and argue like a champ. THAT’S how you actually win.
If you are looking for couples counseling for you and your spouse, or couples counseling for one, we would love to help. Make an appointment today.
Be sure to check out steps 1-5 of Anatomy of an Argument.