Attentiveness and discipline are keys to listening well. When we take the time to listen to our spouse, we strengthen our relationship like nothing else.

One of the most supremely loving gestures we can give another person is to listen to them. However, being heard is a rare experience for many of us. What makes it so hard to give this simple gift to each other?

We remember those days so well—the early romance days. Living in two different cities, we relied on phone calls and letters, and we counted the days until we would see each other again. Those phone calls were treasured time together, straining to hear to every syllable, every breath, every sigh.

We tuned our hearing to capture every nuance of meaning. The other’s attentiveness affirmed, healed, and inspired an even deeper commitment to loving the other.

To listen is a simple act, the act of being profoundly present. It involves being in the moment with the other person, attentive to them exclusively. It is a whole-body endeavour, requiring our ears and our consent, communicated through both our verbal and body language.

Three things are essential to good listening.

Listening is a Whole Body Endeavour

Firstly, we must recruit our attentiveness, which means attuning our attention and giving our complete focus to the other. Eye contact, physically turning towards the other, removing distractions are all part of attentiveness. Mentally, we need to set aside our preoccupations so that we can use all our mental energy for the task.

In practical terms, that means putting down the remote control and phone, turning off the telly or computer, closing the book or paper, and ceasing any other activity. Yes, that also includes rosary beads, Bibles and prayer books!

Confirm That You Have Understood the Message

Secondly, to listen well, we need to hear what the other says and confirm that we’ve listened to and understood the message.

The message is always more than the words said. It often comes packaged in innuendo and red herrings. There is meaning embedded in the tone, the emotional content behind the words, and the words not said or said badly. It’s an active dance of discovery that requires us to respond and synchronise with the other’s lead.

All listening is a dialogue – an exchange. Good listeners seek to explore the person behind the words tenderly, to know who is speaking, rather than just what is being said.

Listening Takes Self-Discipline

Thirdly, listening takes self-discipline, the discipline of restraining our advice and opinions, and our need to reply, correct or defend. This discipline is especially challenging when the speaker’s message is one of complaint, or one we find unfair, judgemental or offensive in some way.

Problem-solving can come later. The first task is to listen and connect. It is for this reason that self-discipline is key to good listening. Without it, we short-change the opportunity it offers, and we pay the price for that later.

A Free Pass to a Better Relationship

Many things can challenge our marriage and make it harder than it should be. The art of listening is like a free pass to a better relationship. It costs nothing and requires only genuine curiosity to know each other better and a little self-discipline along the way. It is a tangible form of loving smart.

Finally, we need to remember that we were great at it when we fell in love, so we can be confident we can do it now if we so choose. To quote Margaret J. Wheatley,

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.

Originally published at Smart Loving. Image by Christin Hume at Unsplash.

Published On: December 3rd, 20210 CommentsTags: , , , ,

About the Author: Byron and Francine Pirola

Married for 25 years, with 5 children, Byron & Francine Pirola are the founders and co-authors of the SmartLoving Series – marriage enrichment and marriage preparation courses designed to help build successful and resilient marriages. International speakers and authors of numerous articles on marriage, more than 3000 couples have attended their programs, workshops and conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain Byron & Francine are Executive Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre from which they run SmartLoving programs and produce digital resources. Francine graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Religion and Religious Education. Byron is a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners Limited, and a Director of both listed and unlisted companies. He holds a PhD from the Commonwealth Centre for Gene Technology, Adelaide University.

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