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Active Listening

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Jay Dee

Active Listening

Mar 31, 2016

In this week’s challenge, I mentioned active listening as a skill that people should be using, but hadn’t had a post up yet about it.  So, today I’m going to rectify that. Active listening, which I’ve also heard called Listening 2.0 or Level 2 Listening,

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Active ListeningIn this week’s challenge, I mentioned active listening as a skill that people should be using, but hadn’t had a post up yet about it.  So, today I’m going to rectify that.

Active listening, which I’ve also heard called Listening 2.0 or Level 2 Listening, is the process of listening intentionally.

Often we listen simply because we’re expected to, we listen for the shortest amount of time possible to get what we think is important to us, or we only appear to be listening, while really we’re working on what we’re going to say when it’s our turn.

So what is active listening?

Active listening, by contrast, is listening on purpose.  Listening because we want to learn something.  It involves actually paying attention to what’s being said, processing it, then re-iterating it back to the person talking, and asking questions in order to clarify your understanding.

So, for example, this might be an example of passive listening:

Husband – I have a late meeting on Thursday
Wife – Oh, okay.

Whereas with a wife who is practicing active listening the conversation might go:

Husband – I have a late meeting on Thursday
Wife – So you won’t be home at the usual time?
Husband – No, probably not.
Wife – Do you know what time you will be home?
Husband – Well, the meeting is scheduled to end at 6pm, but there’s no guarantee of that actually happening.
Wife – Alright, so we shouldn’t wait for you for supper?
Husband – No, I wouldn’t wait.  I have no idea what time I’ll actually be home.
Wife – Alright.  Should I make enough so that you can have some when you get home?
Husband – No, there’s probably no need.  This client often suggests concluding the meetings at dinner, so there’s a good chance I’ll have already eaten.
Wife – Alright.  Thanks for letting me know, I appreciate it.

Now,  as you can see, it takes a lot more time.  It takes more effort.  It takes being intentional. But, the rewards are well worth the effort.  Now, this hypothetical conversation was merely about logistics, but it still could have ended badly.  Without active listening, the wife and kids could have been left waiting to start dinner, not knowing when the husband would be home.  Perhaps calling his cell, which he’s not picking up, perhaps because he can’t hear it in the busy restaurant, or perhaps because it’s bad etiquette to pick up a phone call during a business meeting (regardless of how many people do it).  All the while, the wife would be getting more and more frustrated and the husband would come home to a power keg ready to explode.

Now, granted, he could have been far more forthcoming with information.  No argument there.  But often we assume that our spouse knows what we’re thinking.  I’ll need to cover that in another post.  But, just because one spouse didn’t do what was optimal, doesn’t excuse the other.  This isn’t one spouse against the other.  You aren’t enemies, you are a team.  So, it behooves each spouse to do their best to communicate effectively.  If one drops the ball, the other should pick it up, so that they can both continue towards the goal of a good marriage, together.

So, this hypothetical logistics conversation could end up with a lot of hurt feelings and a fight, if not managed properly.  How much more something that’s about sex?

Husband – Hey, are you in the mood for sex?
Wife – No.
*Husband slumps his shoulders and walks away feeling rejected

I think this is a conversation (and I use that term loosely) that happens in a lot of marriages.  Of course, the genders can easily be reversed in many cases.

But, if active listening were applied, it might turn out differently.

HusbandHey, are you in the mood for sex?
Wife – No.
Husband – Are you saying you’re not thinking about sex right now, or that you aren’t up for sex at all tonight?
Wife – I guess I just mean I’m not thinking about it right now.
Husband – So, perhaps I could persuade you to be in the mood? 
Wife – Perhaps…
Husband – Maybe if we started with a massage?
Wife – I like massages
Husband – A sensual full body massage…
Wife – Even better!
Husband – That might turn into an erotic, sensual, full body massage…
Wife – I’m not sure you could pull off a full body massage without it become erotic.
Husband – No, probably not
Wife – I think I could be persuaded by that
Husband – Excellent, I’ll get the coconut oil.  I’ll meet you in the bedroom.

Now, there’s a bit more to this than just active listening, but active listening is what kicked it off.  Of course, the conversation could just as easily go:

Husband – Are you in the mood for sex?
Wife – No.
Husband – Are you saying you’re not thinking about sex right now, or that you aren’t up for sex at all tonight?
Wife – Actually, I’m exhausted.  I was up half the night with our son and I really need to get some sleep.  Can we try tomorrow?
Husband – Of course.  Get some sleep.  Want you all rested for tomorrow night!

In this case, they still didn’t have sex, but at least the husband isn’t feeling rejected.  In fact he may even be encouraged at the promise to try to have sex the next day.

In all three of these hypothetical situations, the first exchanges were the same, it’s the active listening that changed it, that gave an opening for something else.

 

So, there’s a short primer on Active Listening.  Use it in your marriage.  You’ll be amazed at the improvement in your communication.

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6 thoughts on “Active Listening”

  1. Norah says:

    Really like this one.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Thanks!

  2. Jim Green says:

    She, I have an early schedule and we just did a quickie last week. What else do you want from me? “Me”, How about some gourmet sex this weekend? God, we just had it last weekend! She, “Ok, I’ll just bend over again, but make it quick, I have a hectic schedule all next week, so this will be it for awhile, ok? ” Me, sure honey, what ever makes you happy. She, “I don’t want this, I’m only doing it for you, just make it quick.” “The short story of my sexual life”. And you all wonder why men cheat on their wives?
    .

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Because men won’t step up and actually talk about how it makes them feel? Because they worry too much about “whatever makes you happy” right now, and not what will make them happy long term? Because men tend to be enablers of bad behaviour? Because we fail to lead, and then we take the easy way out? Because we’re afraid to be vulnerable and intimate? Because we aren’t adult enough to have really difficult conversations? No, I don’t wonder why men cheat.

  3. El Fury says:

    I’ve learned to be careful with this. It sounds great in theory, but sometimes it comes across as bothersome or an interrogation when you rephrase and repeat questions.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I think watching one’s tone is vital to keeping it from being interrogation like. This can work in practice as well as theory.

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