Seek First to Understand

In my position at work, I receive a lot of calls where people reach out for help in their marriage.  At the beginning of the conversation, I ask a few basic questions dealing with their background, length of marriage, and number of children to help better understand the situation.  My callers can answer these inquiries quickly and with little hesitation.  But, then I proceed to ask a question that oftentimes causes them to pause and think for a bit before they can answer.

“What would your SPOUSE say is the biggest barrier to unity in your marriage?”

Did you just stop for a moment to reflect on the answer?  What if it was asked a little differently to make it more personal towards your thoughts?  What do YOU say is the biggest barrier to unity in your marriage? I bet answers would come not only quickly, but a long list would likely follow.  The reason is simple.  We aren’t applying one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as given by Dr. Stephen Covey.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Dr. Stephen Covey

One of the major barriers to unity in marriage is that we don’t stop long enough to sit our spouse down face-to-face with no distractions (turn off those cell phones!) and ask questions intended to listen to their heart.  There are different ways of asking questions.  You can ask intimidating questions intended to manipulate their response.  Or, you can ask leading questions hoping that they will understand what their heart truly desires.  Finally, you can ask questions that are intended to help your spouse work out of their heart where they truly are in their thoughts and experiences.

One set of questions is progressive:
How is your heart doing?
What have I done lately to frustrate you?
Where are your thoughts lingering these days?
What have I done lately that causes you to admire me?
When you think about me, what emotion arises within?
What is one thing I can do over the course of the next week to help you feel more loved?

I know in our home, Shannon stays home with the kids all day.  I have a habit of asking her how she is doing and her typical response is “fine”.  But, that is not what I’m asking.  I want to know about her heart.  Therefore, I have adjusted my question.  I now ask her “How is your heart doing this morning?” so that I can then create connection with her for the day.

Communication doesn’t improve without someone making an effort.  If this is a struggle within your marriage, the solution must include connection.  Someone must be the vulnerable and try to understand the position the other one takes. Let it be you this week.

Praying for each of you.

One comment to Seek First to Understand

  • Jan Olson  says:

    I love this. Sometimes I feel like I am pulling teeth to get to the REAL heart of an issue. Yes we do sometimes have issues. Once there I feel so much better. I can’t brush things away or eventually there will be a blowup ? That doesn’t make anyone happy, especially me.

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