This is my latest installment of my personal adventure into the unknown. I am taking a long, deep introspective look at my role as a husband, but I am trying to see it through the eyes of a boyfriend. That being said, here is what I have been up to lately.
In Part 4 of this endeavor, I said that I was going to be working on being a better listener. The only problem was my wife and I haven’t seen each other very much as of late. It’s hard to be a good listener when there is no one to listen to. Nothing dramatic is going on, we’re just busy. She is going through all of the hectic running around to get another school year started and I am doing my best to keep my business afloat. The times that we have talked have been pleasant, though – and I’m certainly thankful for that.
I do know some of the techniques for active listening and one of them is to simply be present. To make this work, it’s best to put everything aside and listen with no distractions. Good eye contact is also helpful as well as echoing back what you hear in the conversation. This helps people feel validated and it lets them know that you understand what they are saying and feeling.
As the conversation moves along, sometimes it’s hard to resist giving advice on the situation. Unless it’s asked for, it’s better to do the hard job of staying away from that. Pretty much any sentence that starts with “You need to…” is out of bounds. I have also learned that it is a bad idea to tell a woman to “Calm Down.” I don’t know why these two words are so upsetting, but they are. The intent to help may be genuine, but it is not received as such – not by a longshot. So, guys, please do not do this. It will backfire and you will have unintentionally escalated a situation that was already tense.
To wrap-up a listening session, try to guide the other person toward a solution. I have found that if your words take up no more than 20 percent of the entire conversation, there will be plenty of room in there for the other person to basically solve their own problem. However, sometimes there is no solution to a problem. When this happens, all you can do is just be there and keep on listening. Those are the toughest situations, for sure, but at the end you will have faced it together. A lot of the biggest problems we face in life seem unsurmountable and there is no way to make things right again. Horrible accidents happen, people and pets’ lives are cut short, and incurable medical conditions are placed upon us. These are the times when we don’t “get over it,” we “get through it.”
The only way I have been able to get through the toughest times in my life is with the counsel of my loving wife/girlfriend – and through prayer, of course. We have certainly had our ups and downs over the last 30 something years, but if you ask either one of us – the best it yet to come. If you listen, listen, listen.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.