In my practice I often hear couples complain about having the same conversations over and over. The same things get repeated and both are left feeling frustrated and unheard. This leads to emotional disconnect. Usually the reason for this is that both are focused on what they have to say, not on what the other is trying to express.
Remember the old Verizon commercials when the spokesman went to different parts of the country asking “Can you hear me now?” This reminds me of how we sometimes communicate with others. What I have observed in my practice is that often the goal of our interactions with others is to convince them that our perspective is right and we want the other person to agree with us. Think about what happens when we do not get the desired response from someone. We tend to speak louder and repeat ourselves. Have you ever seen this played out with someone trying to communicate with someone who does not speak English? The tendency is to keep saying the same words louder and more sternly, as if magically the other person will understand English. Clients have described this type of communication as being “browbeaten, bullied or railroaded.” This style of communication is an example of “Can you hear me know” and leads to feelings of anger and resentment.
One way to change this is to listen to understand rather than listen to respond. Rather than asking “Can you hear me now?” why not ask “Do I hear you now?” If we are listening to understand, we are trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. We are trying to understand the world through their eyes. This does not mean we agree with what the other person is saying. It simply means we care about them and are willing to try to understand their perspective. Once we have an understanding of where the other is coming from, we can then work toward finding a mutually acceptable solution. This leads to a win-win result rather than a win-lose.
So, the next time you find yourself in a circular conversation or argument, try summarizing what you are hearing the other person say. Ask them “Do I hear you now?” “Is this right?” You just might be surprised at how this simple question can change the course of the conversation and lead to a deeper, more meaningful conversation.