Can You Hear Me Now?
Remember that commercial from the cellular carrier? It was kind of funny, but they were making point – we all want to be heard and it is frustrating when we do not believe we are being heard. Truly, this does not just apply to cell phones; I think “can you hear me now” applies to a lot of our experiences in relationship.
Don’t we all want to be heard and truly understood? Don’t we all want our voices and opinions to matter to those we care about? It’s really an essential quality of excellent intimate relationships – and I’m not just saying because I think so. I’m saying that because it’s backed by research (Bodenmann, Nussbeck, Bradbury, and Kuhn, 2018). Better yet, God says this is the model for great communication. #communication #listening #activelistening #couples
James 1:19 (NLT) says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
Can you hear me now?
It’s one of those verses people who have been in church circles for a while may have heard dozens of times. It’s perhaps so familiar, we rush by it without digesting it and figuring out how to put it into practice. So, will you indulge me with digesting this instruction in a new way? I think what James was saying here, and what couple research supports, is key and maybe a brand-new way of communicating for many of us. I know this was not taught in my house growing up!
So here we go, a few words at a time:
“Understand this” – please take this as truth and contemplate it, examine it, take it in as wisdom.
“My dear brothers and sisters” – who does this bit of wisdom apply to? He says DEAR brothers and sisters – first it is said in kindness and love, right? And it is for everyone.
“You must all” – this is an imperative for everyone, not subjective or optional. It is not a mere suggestion.
“Be quick to listen” – come with an attitude of eagerness to hear and understand what is being spoken. That means setting aside my response, my reaction, my opinion, my defense. Tune in to the words being spoken and the emotion behind them even if it is unspoken. Ask clarifying questions (without attitude and sarcastic tone) if understanding eludes. Seek to really develop a heart-level knowledge of what it is like to stand in the other person’s shoes. This does not mean we necessarily agree with the other, but that we value them enough as children of God to seek to understand them.
“Slow to speak” – take your time making sure they are understood well. Validate them (not necessarily agreeing with their position) by reflecting it back. Refrain again from defending, responding, reacting, or simply saying “I understand” because that usually means we do not understand, and we have not made the heart-level connection with what they are trying to communicate. Try to use the feeling words in that reflection that they are using or expressing.
“And slow to get angry” – When we are successful at understanding another at the heart-level, we will be slow to become angry. Why? Because we have set aside ourselves long enough to truly hear what is happening for someone else and not made it about me, my opinion, or being right.
Research supports this kind of listening, often called active listening, produces the greatest intimacy and feelings of being valued and heard and connected in intimate relationships. It’s effective in any type of relationship, but probably most important in a marital relationship. #intimacy #communication #activelistening
Bodemann, Nussbeck, Bradbury and Kuhn (2018). Journal of Family Psychology, 32(6). The power of listening: Lending an ear to the partner during dyadic couple conversations. doi: 10.1037/fam0000421