At some point, your spouse will come to you during a conversation or an argument and say, “you’re not listening to me!” The odds are high that it’s already happened to you a time or two. These situations are confusing because you swear you heard every single word they just said. But are you hearing correctly?
You were listening! But — were you hearing correctly?
Many times, we think we are hearing our spouse communicate their feelings and desires when we really aren’t. And usually, what is standing in the way of good communication is our attitudes. As we wrote a few weeks ago, a good attitude, whether it be toward work, life, or relationships, increases optimism, breeds success, improves communication, opens our hearts, and even helps eliminate worries and negative thinking. There are many “right kinds of attitudes,” but there are also many wrong kinds of attitudes — all of which prevent us from truly listening and hearing correctly.
“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” — John C. Maxwell
In his book, The Feeling Good Handbook, David Burns created a pretty significant list of negative attitudes. We should all be mindful of these. As he says, “unless we identify some of the attitudes that prevent each partner from listening, the relationship becomes stilted in its growth.” Below are a few of the negative attitudes that stand out the most from his book.
Negative Attitudes and their influence on Hearing Correctly:
I’m right, and you’re wrong — When this is your attitude, you can’t possibly welcome your spouse’s true feelings and desires into your heart. You’re on a singular mission to prove a point and to be right no matter what.
Domination phobia — A lot of people, especially men, will shut down and not listen to their wives when they are forced to do something. This happens quite a bit, and as a result, they don’t listen very well.
I’m the victim — Couples are no further apart than when one or both choose to play the victim role. As Burns says, “feeling the need to be victimized and view your partner as insensitive causes difficulty in hearing the explanations or apologies.”
Defensiveness — This is the attitude of rejecting anything and everything your spouse says out of fear of being proven wrong or put on the spot. Needless to say, we can’t possibly hear correctly with this mentality.
Self-blindness — You are blind to what your role is in the conflict, and as a result, you create barriers.
Mistrust — Perhaps there is no greater detriment to a safe and connected marriage than deep-seated mistrust between spouses. As Burns says, this is a matter of “believing your partner is lying before he or she says anything.”
All we are saying here is that our attitudes during conflict can sabotage our ability to truly hear our spouse correctly. As a result, your ability to communicate positively is next to impossible. When you listen and truly hear your partner, you step down from being an expert. Instead you show love, concern, and respect.
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Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
Did we leave anything out? What are your attitudes toward your spouse? How have you learned to keep your attitudes positive? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com