No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.John Donne, British poet, d. 1631
Poet and clergyman John Donne understood that human beings do not thrive without relationships with other people. One of the first statements God makes about mankind is that it is not good for a man to be alone. Whether someone has spiritual beliefs, people are healthier and happier having a relationship, community, with others. When sports fans meet together, a group of hikers set out to cross the snowy Pacific Crest Trail, or a married couple (or any couple) living together, each relationship has fundamentals. For camaraderie, for effective, safe and pleasant hiking, or for lasting, loving marriages, communication is a key component. None function well independently.
learning to listen
It is not a coincidence that any long-term relationship requires good communication. For two people in a marriage, listening is a skill that requires attention and practice. In many relationships, the busy-ness of life, working, child-rearing, or something else intrude on really hearing the other person. Inability to really listen to one another affects us becoming closer emotionally or physically. When neither partner in a relationship is skilled in listening, talking about deeper issues, disappointments and such rarely bring them closer emotionally. For those who are followers of Jesus, a scripture, James 1:19, is more than good relationship advice it is an imperative.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry -James 1:19
A good listener makes their partner feel heard, loved, respected and valued. This is directly reflected in the level of intimacy with your spouse.
Keys to better listening:
- Bring the right mindset. Be attentive and focus on the speaker
- Give the other your full attention, face-to face, and make eye contact. Show interest.
- Learn the words to draw out, and encourage them to talk from the heart.
5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. -Proverbs 20:5
- Seek to understand their reasoning. Understanding is being able to restate their reasons to someone else clearly.
- Feelings. Be able to empathize, noting their tone, inflection and body language.
- Share what you hear in your own words. Allow them to clarify your understanding. Good communication requires feedback.
- For Christians, letting the Spirit guide you. Being sensitive to the Spirit, allows Him to lead and help you listen