Listening Non-Defensively 

Listening is an important skill for any marriage. Truly listening to your partner requires you to pay close attention to what they are saying without focusing on what you are thinking. This can be very difficult if your feelings are hurt, you disagree with what your partner is saying, or you are angry.

Learning how to listen to your partner means that you stay present. Instead of focusing on your rebuttal, you are able to keep hearing what your partner is saying. This requires conscious effort to keep listening.

Listening means that you don’t interrupt. This can be very difficult if you are in the habit of interrupting. Interrupting to gain clarification in a calm manner is acceptable. Saying something such as “I’m not sure what you are referring to,” might be important in order to gain clarification prior to your partner continuing on in the conversation.

If you have listened non-defensively, you will be able to acknowledge the feelings that come up but not pay so much attention to them that you can no longer listen. For example, if your partner says something that hurts your feelings, you will be able to wait until it is your turn before pointing this out.

When it is your turn to talk, even if you have listened non-defensively, it will be important to ensure you have heard what your partner has to say. So saying, “What I heard you say is that…” can help ensure you gained the main points from your spouse’s conversation. Before explaining your feelings, you will want to ensure that you did not misunderstand.

Once you have gained clarification, explain your feelings. Saying something like, “I’m sad to hear that you feel that way.” This can help show that you listened and provides you with an opportunity to express your reaction. If you’ve listened well you will have the ability to have a more helpful discussion than if you’ve only half listened to what your partner has to say.

One Response to “Listening Non-Defensively”

  1. Great article – Thank you.

    Strategically planning in advance to ask a “clarifying question” about what our partner is saying and feeling can really help the brain process rather than defend against or filter out what’s being said and felt.

    It’s also much easier to listen non-defensively when our partner speaks non-critically, right?

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