The power of listening and the power of words

By: Ethen Gillespie

We can all recognize the power of words in a relationship, but we should never forget the power of listening!

Success in marriage, like any other relationship, depends upon the ability to effectively communicate. Dr. John Covey states in “Eights Habits of a Successful Marriage,” that one of the habits needed for effective communication is, “listen first, talk second.”

We are not born with good listening skills, therefore they must be learned and developed. We typically talk more than we listen. The old adage that “we should listen twice as much as we talk since we have two ears and only one mouth,” is a good principle to live by. However that is rarely the case.

To listen first and talk second is a great habit to build mutual understanding. We seek first to understand, and then we talk to be understood. We all see and understand the world differently. Communication is important to achieve mutual understanding, because we do not think, see, or experience the world the same way our spouse or anyone else in this world does.

Ineffective communication can limit your view of your marriage and your spouse. When you do not listen to understand, you create a world of misunderstanding and limited views.

Dr. Covey states that to listen for understanding you must 1) make eye contact, 2) look for and recognize body language, 3) avoid door slammers – words or actions that shut down the communication process, and 4) use the Talking Stick method of communications.

The Talking Stick method was used by the Native Americans as a way to ensures that the speaker was always heard and understood. The rule for using the Talking Stick method is that the person holding the Talking Stick is the speaker. The speaker communicates to the listener a challenge or opportunity he or she is facing. The listener repeats the speaker’s words in his or her mind, focusing on the speaker’s point and feelings. The listener only speaks to reflect understanding and to make sure the speaker feels understood. Finally, once the speaker feels understood, the speaker hands the Talking Stick to the listener and the process starts over.

Improving listening skills improves communication, because you are listening to understand. If you are listening to understand, Jane Covey says that you must “put a zipper on your mouth…an industrial-size zipper!” When we listen to understand, we find the power of listening will improve our relationships.

To learn more about the free “Eight Habits of a Successful Marriage” classes contact Ethen Gillespie at the Building Strong Families office at 662-615-0033. Building Strong Families is a federally funded grant awarded to the Starkville School District’s Department of Family Centered Programs.