Shut Up and Think

In marital relationship problems, the most overlooked area of communication is listening. Most people assume listening is for the sake of the other partner. “Yeah, yeah, I should listen–for his [or her] sake.” That’s not it! Although your partner may benefit from your listening, the main reason for shutting up is so that you can THINK — specifically, think about what your partner is saying. It’s a matter of sheer self-interest and self-preservation, at least if you want this relationship to survive. By listening, you can better understand the point-of-view of the person with whom you’re in conflict — a person who is very important to you. You can check for any honest misunderstandings, any mistaken assumptions, or simply differing priorities. By listening, you will discover the nature of the hopefully fixable problems — as well as the content of any irreconcilable differences. I always recommend to couples in crisis that they supplement their talking/arguing with carefully thought out written letters to each other, letters detailing what they feel and why. Few will do this, but all who do so benefit from it. That’s because the thinking required by writing is the key to communication.