I’ll be the first to admit it: Listening is hard. It requires a humility and gentleness that clashes with our culture’s fast-paced, self-centered way of life.
I witness this from time to time in my own home at the dinner table. One kid raises her hand the entire time her brother is speaking. She waits her turn to speak at school, so she truly believes this is polite. The other kid finishes his sister’s sentences and can’t seem to understand why this gets underneath her skin.
When conversation becomes waiting our turn to speak or finishing someone’s thought, we’ve lost something fundamental in the way we communicate. This isn’t conversation, and it certainly isn’t connection. It doesn’t end there.
Much of the conflict in our marriages arises when we assume rather than ask and when we speak rather than listen.
Listening is a demonstration of how we value those around us.
In The Listening Life, Adam McHugh writes, “Listen to the voice of the Spirit while you listen to the other person. Don’t listen for what truth or insight you should speak to them. Listen for what questions to ask.” This is a slow and gentle process, but an important one if we want to learn how to genuinely connect with those we love.
Asking good questions can bring depth and purpose to ordinary conversations. More importantly, questions can cultivate a deeper intimacy within our marriages if we’re willing to learn how to listen.
Questions allow us to tap into that sacred space beneath the surface.
True connection begins with active listening. Since we could all use a little conversation make-over, here are four questions that foster authentic connection. These questions can add insight, depth, and beauty to everyday exchanges within our homes and within our marriages.
1. How can I pray for you?
Instead of “How are you?” try asking, “How can I pray for you?” And then commit to prayer whatever is shared with you.
2. Can you tell me more?
When you think you know exactly what your spouse is saying, ask this question: “Can you tell me more about that?” This gently draws out what’s underneath that first layer of conversation.
3. What do you need right now?
Asking “What do you need right now?” directs you to specific ways you can bless your spouse. This one has the capacity to completely alter our most precious relationships.
Adam McHugh says a listener’s best friend is the “why” question. Rather than disagree, relate, fix, or solve, let a “why” question jump-start a better conversation. Here are some examples:
“Why do you hold that belief?”
“Why is that important to you?”
“Why does that bother you?”
“Why did that hurt you?”
“Why do you feel that way?”
As our questioning improves, so will our listening.
Questions offer a simple way to communicate that we care while reminding us that we have so much to learn. Better questions will revive our dinner table conversations and breathe life into our everyday connections with the ones we love.
By Kelly Sobieski