Saturday, September 11, 2010

Marriage Reflections – Part 3

Continuing with the marriage principles that we spoke on at a recent marriage seminar we led...

The third topic I spoke about was on listening.

Years ago I traveled to Ohio and attended an Apples of Gold conference entitled Listening for Heaven's Sake. Prior to attending I had always thought I was an excellent listener and a good counselor. I learned differently.

A very few of the many listening principles I picked up and ones that have changed my entire mode of listening to others are the ones that I am addressing here.

Before I travel down that road, I want to restate a principle of life that has literally changed most of how I try to relate to friends and family. I'm a math person and I love how this principle communicates as an equation.
Exposure + Acceptance = Encouragement

As I practice this principle in life, it's amazing how changing it has been for me and for my relationships. I'm naturally a judging person, it's built into my DNA. So this principle has required major changes in the way I think and the way I relate. Anyway, that's a backdrop for these listening principles.

Two listening principles that I remember and therefore attribute them as the most important are spotlight listening and advice listening.

Whenever I would be talking with someone and had heard their problem or their story, I would sooner or later tell them a similar experience that I had had. I always thought that I was sharing something to show them that I understood, I was relating to and with them. Often I would preface that with "I know how you feel. I remember when..."

At the Listening Conference I learned that style is stealing the spotlight. I in essence was putting the spotlight or the importance on me and taking it from the one I was talking with. I was shocked. That shot down one of my best listening skills. Hmmm... Time to think about this.

After learning this, I began to practice this with family first and then with others. I was amazed at how off I had been previously, even often interrupting to share my experience. That stealing the spotlight principle is so right. Keeping the spotlight on the one who initially shares is important for respect, for acceptance, and for encouragement. I'm still learning, but I so love this. I'm not 100% yet, but I'm certainly better at listening than I used to be.

The second listening principle I had to unlearn and relearn correctly was advice listening. At this week long listening conference, I was really beaten up skill-wise as far as listening was concerned. I also began to learn that I was listening so I could give my all important advice to the one who had come to me. Yikes!

At the seminar I was given a picture of what it is to have someone come to you with a problem or to share a hurting experience. It's like this person is driving along in the car of his/her life and they see you walking along and they pull over and ask you to ride with them for a short distance.

The picture shows you that they are the driver and they are the ones who will continue on in their vehicle of life long after you are gone. You are there to share a short ride with them. They decide where they are going and they really decide how they are going to get there.

A way of listening and of sharing is to realize you are the passenger in their car of life and they will have to make their own decisions and pay their own consequences. Therefore a good listening and sharing strategy is to help them be aware of what choices they do have and what possible consequences might occur along with listening to their story with respect and encouragement. Wow! Was I turned upside down.

Prior to this I had the arrogant attitude that all problems, hurts, and struggles are handled one of two ways. Stop doing the sinful actions that are causing the problem or realize that God is in charge and He will take care of it. Hey, no wonder no one came to me the second time. I think I thought I was great because I helped them see their problem and get fixed. Great counselor!

I learned quite differently, and painful as it was, it was well worth it.

Applying these things to our marriage has helped our relationship and it has helped me personally more than could be possibly measured or expressed. Again, I'm still quite the student and not even in graduate school on this yet, but I am learning and growing and learning new and different ways to apply these skills.

I'm definitely a better person for having learned and trying to practice this. I definitely have a better marriage (at least in my opinion). And life has been so much more enjoyable. Life is an adventure, and a quite enjoyable one.

It has also helped me listen to someone's exposure of hurt, pain, guilt, or sin, and accept their person as I listen and hopefully they are encouraged.


Becky Dietz said...

I may have to read this a few times to "get it," but I NEED to "get it!" Seems I have the same judgmental make-up and fix-it style!! Yikes!! But...back up the bus. I wouldn't have made it through some things without your help. Grateful you're pressing on, though.

Mary Burleson said...

Becky, I still have to read and think on these things to remember and refresh. I'm glad I'm still learning although I sometimes think the more I learn the less I know. Makes life and learning truly an adventure.

Yvonne Metzdorf said...

Mary, Thanks for sharing this. I did have to read it a few times. And found I am guilty of both!! Maybe it's a "woman" thing....not to make excuses.... but I think I've got to put it into practice! Even made a note to put on my mirror to remind me of the "no, no" listening traits. Like you, I'm glad to be able to learn a new life that will make me a more thoughtful, caring listener, wife, mother, friend. Thanks again.

Mary Burleson said...

Yvonne, The little paperback book, Listening for Heaven's Sake, is an excellent read. It was fun to attend the conference and learn through group discussions, and I also bought the book. I've taught through it a couple of times at small groups, and I never cease to be amazed at how these listening principles seem like a foreign language to most participants, especially strong church people. Interesting. Love learning new things. Hope I continue...MB