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Monday, July 20

Listening - An Essential Ingredient in Relationships

Some people have the gift of gab. You might be one of those born with a natural ability to talk to people and get your point across. But true communication that builds up a relationship isn't about how well you talk or how persuasive you can be. It's a give and take between two people. Surprisingingly, it's a skill that sadly seems to be lacking in most people, because one of the common reasons for relationships breaking up or losing what I call its happy-worthiness is an inability to communicate effectively.

Communication comes from a word that means to "share between...". Webster formally defines it as the exchange of information between individuals. In most cases, people don't have a problem with talking. As long as we're not mute, talking isn't a problem for most of us, especially us women. Communication in a relationship or marriage isn't just about getting your point across, it's also understanding what the other person is saying to us and responding appropriately. You can't understand what you're spouse is saying if you're not LISTENING. We need to learn to close our mouths and listen to what they have to say. We can't hear them if we're still talking or if we keep interrupting.

We actually don't listen with our ears, but with our mind. Why did I say that? Of course, we hear the sound of the words with our ears, but we process what it means with our minds. Our minds are developed to reason or think a certain way by experiences we've had, things we've been taught, what we give our time and attention to, and the various kinds of training we've received. What we hear with our minds determine the response that we give. Lets look at two people listening to the sound of a car engine revving. If one is a trained mechanic, he will hear something different from the other person who might not be. Both of them will come up with two different conclusions. One has a trained ear, and the other doesn't, but they both heard the same sound.

I've observed that people's previous relationship experiences affect their communication in their current relationship. If they've had difficulties with their past partners, it tends to colour the way think so they end up responding negatively to their spouse or partner. Some times, what happens is that they're hearing something the other person didn't actually say. I had a problem of jumping to conclusions while my husband was talking. Before he even finished what he was saying, I would interrupt him with a reply based on my assumptions. He would simply say, "Why don't you let me finish?" My assumptions about what he was saying and what I thought he meant blocked my mind from hearing what he was really saying and so I couldn't understand him. I learnt to stop jumping to conclusions because I got tired of saying "I'm sorry" all the time. Humble pie doesn't taste very nice you know.

I began practising keeping my mouth shut and my mind open. As a result, we began to communicate better and understand ourselves better when we talked about one issue or the other. This helped us tremendously in minimising conflict in our relationship and resolving those times when it existed. Effective communication affects every aspect of a marriage relationship. From money to intimacy. Sex doesn't build up intimacy, communication does. So it's really important that we learn to communicate effectively and listening is a very important key in effective communication.

A lot of times, when you hear your spouse say, "You're not understanding me", take a step back and ask yourself, "Am I really listening with my mouth closed and my mind open?" If you aren't, then learn to close your big mouth, open up your mind and let them talk. It might not be easy at first, but you'll be so glad you did. If not, humble pie anyone? -Valentina Ibeachum

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