I was recently spending some time with my wife, Kelsey. There we were together, and she was passionately sharing with me. And as she talked, I felt this ever-growing, overwhelming need to respond.
So, I did!
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, her face fell. She clearly was hurt. “Just like me,” I thought, I was hurt too! Plus I felt it was only fair for me to respond to defend myself! I have found myself here too often, with a hurt or angry spouse because I needed to put my two cents into the conversation. Is this you, too?
One relationship-changing, date-saving tool that has helped me is simply listening to repeat.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Listening to Kelsey and repeating the exact words she spoke back to her. Then, asking her if I got the message right. Try it sometime. It is amazing!
In the example above, I'm there listening to respond and you can see how that worked out for me! When we repeat back to our partner what they said, it allows them to know you heard them and you understood what they said. When we respond with our own thoughts, perceptions, and perspectives, it can leave our partner feeling unheard or misunderstood. Or, as in my case, hurt. As you might imagine, a conversation where we are simply responding with our own thoughts and perspectives can leave both sides feeling disconnected.
Work to move into your next conversation with one goal: to listen to repeat. You just might find that the interaction changes. Then, once you're sure you've understood them, slow down again, take a moment to think how someone might feel if they had that perspective. How it would be if you were the one feeling this way.
Share that with your partner. Share how you think they're feeling right now. And, again, check in to see if you got it right. This is listening. It can be hard. Hard not to respond and rush in with your perspective. Hard not to try change their mind. But, just once, try to listen to repeat. Try to see the world from inside their thoughts. It’s in here that connections can be made.