Category: Listening

The Healing Power of Apologies

In a perfect world, no one would need to apologize. But in an imperfect world apologizes are a necessity. The first step is admitting that you need to apologize. “I owe you an apology,” is a good beginning. Then, express your apology, and admit that your behavior was wrong. Ask them to forgive you. When you sincerely apologize, you will most likely receive forgiveness. When you fail to apologize you leave an emotional barrier between you and the other person. When is the last time you apologized to your spouse? Or, your child? If it has been more than a week, you probably need to say,  “I owe you an apology.” Time doesn’t heal hurts; apologies do.

Q&A: Loving People who Disappoint

Q: “Gary, I struggle with loving other people as they always disappoint.  How can I work on this?”

A: The only way to avoid being hurt is to stay away from relationships. The reality is that there is going to be pain, hurt, and disappointment in all human relationships. This is because we are imperfect. None of us are loving all the time. We are by nature self-centered and often selfish. Consequently, we hurt each other—most of the time unintentionally. The fact is that if you’re going to have relationships, you’re going to have times that you will be hurt. You have to accept that. Then, when you do feel hurt or wronged, you lovingly confront and try to work through that difficulty so the relationship can continue on down the road.

Two Small Sentences

“I made a mistake.” “I was wrong.” Two of the most important sentences you will ever learn. There are no perfect wives, no perfect husbands, no perfect children and certainly no perfect parents. Healthy families do not require perfection, but they do require the willingness to admit when you do wrong.

When Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I wrote the book: When Sorry Isn’t Enough (May 2013), we discovered that for some people, this is what it means to apologize. If you don’t admit that you were wrong, they feel that your apology is insincere. The next time you need to apologize, you might use those words: “I made a mistake.” “I was wrong.” It might make it easier for your spouse to accept your apology and forgive you.

Learning To Listen

We are all busy, often too busy to listen. And yet, listening is the only way you will ever come to understand your spouse’s thoughts and feelings. Listening takes time and requires focus. It’s true you can listen while we read e-mails or watch television, but that is not the kind of listening that communicates, “I care about you and what you are saying.” In Romans 12, Paul tells us to “take delight in honoring each other.” One way to honor someone is to give them your undivided attention. When you drop everything, look at and listen to your spouse, you communicate , “You are the most important person in my life.” Listening is a powerful expression of Love.

Marital Discipline

I know of no spiritual discipline more important than a daily quiet time with God—reading the scriptures with an open heart to hear the voice of God and responding with my questions, my praise, my thanks, and my requests. As a marriage counselor, I know of no marital discipline more important than a daily sharing time with your spouse—sharing the highs and lows of your day; your victories and your struggles; thanking each other and making requests. A time to listen and talk with God; and a time to listen and talk with your spouse—what could be more important? God is always ready, and your spouse may be, if you ask.

Talker Or Responder?

In your marriage, are you a preacher, or are you sitting in the congregation? As a pastor, I’ve always been amazed how people can listen to me preach and have no response. But this happens in many marriages. One is a talker, sharing their thoughts, feelings, desires, and frustrations, while the other has no response. Now don’t get me wrong. Listening is good, but the purpose of listening is to understand what in going on inside the other person, so you can have a meaningful response. If that response is guided by love it will be honest and caring. If you’d like help on healthy communication, see my book: The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

Q&A: My fiancé and I argue daily. What should we do?

Question: My fiancé and I have been fighting almost daily about all sorts of things. The amount of arguing is beginning to worry me. Is this going to be a problem in our marriage?

Answer: Yes, if you don’t solve the issue now. Engagement should be a time to discover differences, and find solutions. All couples have conflicts, but arguing with raised voices and harsh words is not the way to solve conflicts. In my book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, I have a chapter entitled “I wish I’d known how to solve conflict without arguing.” I believe it is essential to a healthy marriage.

The key is learning to listen with empathy. Most of us have no training in how to listen. We listen only long enough to re-load our guns and shoot back with our ideas. Two people shooting each other with explosive words is a battlefield, not a marriage. Go for pre-marital counseling and put this issue on the table. Learn how to listen, how to respect each others’ ideas and how to find a meeting place. Don’t get married until you learn these skills.

Q&A: My fiancé and I argue daily. What should we do?

Question: My fiancé and I have been fighting almost daily about all sorts of things. The amount of arguing is beginning to worry me. Is this going to be a problem in our marriage?

Answer: Yes, if you don’t solve the issue now. Engagement should be a time to discover differences, and find solutions. All couples have conflicts, but arguing with raised voices and harsh words is not the way to solve conflicts. In my book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, I have a chapter entitled “I wish I’d known how to solve conflict without arguing.” I believe it is essential to a healthy marriage.

The key is learning to listen with empathy. Most of us have no training in how to listen. We listen only long enough to re-load our guns and shoot back with our ideas. Two people shooting each other with explosive words is a battlefield, not a marriage. Go for pre-marital counseling and put this issue on the table. Learn how to listen, how to respect each others’ ideas and how to find a meeting place. Don’t get married until you learn these skills.

Looks Like Spring

Does your marriage seem cold and distant? Would you like for it to be warm and caring? I came up with seven strategies for developing a marriage that looks like Spring. One of those strategies is: Discovering the Awesome Power of Empathetic Listening. Few things are more powerful than learning to listen to your spouse.

Most of us are not good listeners. We often respond to our spouses’ ideas before we fully understand them. We end up in an argument that leaves both of us frustrated. Learning to ask: “Are you saying….?” And letting your spouse clarify leads to understanding. Once we understand, we can make an informed response. Winter turns to Spring.

 

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