Many couples come to therapy wanting to learn to communicate better. And as one who's studied interpersonal communications for the past 35 years (Man, I feel so old!), I still wonder why it's so hard for us to grasp the essential first step in communicating effectively: Listen!
The old adage is that we're equipped with two ears and one mouth, and we're to use those proportionally. In other words, we should listen twice as much as we speak! (And while that sounds really good, I'm thinking that if we were actually to do that, there would be an awful lot of silence in the world. But then maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing.)
Anyway, I don't think it's way off base to suggest that, in general, we do a really bad job of listening to each other -- with our friends, in the workplace, in the political arena (Don't even get me started on this one!), and, most especially, in our relationships with our partners.
Why is that, you ask? (Okay, so maybe you didn't really ask, but I've got some thoughts to share anyway!) The reason is that our relationship with our partner is, in most cases, the most important relationship in our lives. And that means when that relationship is not going well, and the stability we derive from that relationship starts to wobble, we feel threatened, and we respond to our partner in ways that are, well, let's just say less than helpful.
So where do we start if we want to communicate well with that special person in our lives? We listen. We suspend our own need to be heard and to get our own point across, and we listen. Not exactly rocket science, huh? We just listen.
Remember Chris Farley of Saturday Night Live fame? His characters would often admonish their listeners with the words, "I wish you would just shut your big yapper!" Maybe that's really good advice. Thoughts? Say more about that...