“Listen – lest your tongue will make you deaf.” Stephen R Covey (from an old proverb).
Listening is the hardest skill in the world, for a number of reasons. First of all, it isn’t taught in schools. You are taught three other communication methods – reading, writing, and arithmetic (which is a communications tool, in a sense), but you are only told to listen, but never taught how.
Secondly, we have a tendency to listen only with the intention to reply, to the degree that our reply is yelling inside our head even before the other party has fully made their point. I see this on all political affairs programmes when someone starts to make a point and the (ideologically opposed) other party butts in quite rudely to accuse party one of saying or thinking something they haven’t yet actually disclosed. (It’s also standard fayre in television dramas where the eavesdropper only hears what the drama requires they hear, instead of staying to hear it all – like real people. I digress.)
But hard as it is, it is often quite informative and interesting to just shut the hell up and listen. If the other party has something important to say, it’ll be worth hearing. If they are going to make a fool of themselves then the same applies.
You cannot challenge a party’s thinking if you haven’t taken the time to fully hear and understand what that thinking actually is.
In less combative scenarios, shutting up remains important. I’m writing here about, ahem, domestic situations. Occasionally, when one’s partner starts having a rant about something you are doing, have done or are about to do wrong (usually this applies to a man!), the temptation – oh boy, do I know this – is to react defensively and, to quote the old joke, that’s when the fight starts.
It is occasionally better to let the moment pass, use the gap between stimulus and response to use your self-awareness, imagination, will and conscience and just say nothing. Accompanied by the audibly sucked in sigh, I grant you. But shut up all the same.
Doing that requires competence in the application, but character in the thinking behind it.
As I have espoused here, allowing yourself to stop and think that you may be wrong is a way of developing intellectually. But allowing others the brief belief that you are wrong, when you are not wrong, is a way of ensuring that a relationship stays on course.
Let the moment pass, and let your actions clarify and show the accuracy of your thinking, while at the same time demonstrating sensitivity to the emotional state of the other party.
Not easy. But application of The Second Resolution is a great way to stay married.
For more on The Three Resolutions, go HERE to read the first pages of the book.