The Art of Talking – The Art of Listening

“How was your day at work today?”
“Not too great. I’m exhausted.”
“Nothing compares to how tired I am.”
“Well at least when you come home you get to sit and relax. I have to get dinner ready, make sure the kids do their homework, take baths and get to sleep on time.”
“Look, I’m bring home more money, work longer hours, and need to unwind when I come home from work.”
“Fine, maybe I won’t go to work anymore. I’ll stay home and take care of the kids while you make all the money.”

Does that sound familiar? Not very productive, is it? Let’s backtrack and start this conversation again.

The Art of Talking - The Art of Listening

“How was your day at work today?”
“Not too great. I’m exhausted.”
“I’m sorry to hear that honey. I’m pretty tired also.”
“Sounds like we both could use some down time. I would really appreciate a little help tonight. Do you think you could start dinner while I help the kids with their homework? After we eat, I’ll get the kids ready for bed and you can relax. Your help will also give me some time to sit and put my feet up.”
“Sure, no problem. Thanks for understanding that I need time to unwind hon. If you need more help just holler.”

Why do you think the second conversation ended so differently? Let’s evaluate both conversations.

In the first scenario, the husband compared his day to his wife’s day without giving any indication that he had heard what she said. She got annoyed, probably because she didn’t feel supported, and let him know what had been bothering her. The conversation just began to unravel from there and what followed was not very helpful to either of them.

The second conversation was friendlier and mutually successful because the husband let his wife know that he had heard her and offered her support by saying “I’m sorry to hear that.” Just that short sentence likey helped his wife to relax. She had her husband on her side and probably felt understood. The wife, instead of hoping her husband would offer to help, was clear and directly told him what she needed of him and that she would be supportive of his needs after he helped. That made it easier for the husband to help, knowing he would get his time to unwind shortly afterward.

There are a few key ingredients in the second conversation that made it end on such a nicer, more loving, and more satisfying note.

1- The husband listened to, and responded to what his wife said before he told her about his day.
2- The wife listened to her husband and let him know that she heard what he said.
3- The wife asked her husband for help in a clear way.
4- The wife let her husband know that she understood what he needed and promised to give it to him once he was finished helping her.

In this second scenario, both the husband and wife felt heard, supported, and therefore were able to offer and receive help.

This is called “active listening”. In active listening, the listener focuses on what the speaker is saying and gives feedback to the speaker that they heard and understood the message. It is a powerful tool to use in a conversation.

It’s amazing how much more smoothly our conversations can go with loved ones when we let them know that we hear them and support them.