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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Taking the time to learn about the interests of someone you care about is a great way to strengthen your relationships — sometimes, even when those interests are something you don’t like.

football fans.3bugsmomEric loves football.

I could count on my fingers how many football games I watched before marrying him.

To me football was an exceedingly dull waste of time. Who in their right mind would want to spend all Sunday watching game after game after game? Well, it turned out Eric did.

At first I did other things while Eric sat enthralled in front of the TV, shouting for joy at random displays of manliness involving catching a ball and running down a field.

One day I realized I’m married to a man who loves football, and because I failed to understand why, I thought I’d attempt to comprehend my husband’s fascination with an oddly shaped pig-skin and some eighty men trying to make each other eat grass.

I committed to sit and knit through watch one game a week. I chose the game based on if I liked the teams’ mascots or colors. (If I was going to watch something I didn’t enjoy, I might as well avoid ugly teams. Sorry Broncos.)

“Knit one, pearl two, knit one, pearl…” would be going along in my brain when Eric would exclaim, “Go, go, go, go,” or “Get him! Sack him!” I had no idea what “him” Eric was referring to, or what a “sack” was, but I would look up just in time to see a pile of bodies or some guy being chased down the field.

Over the course of a few weeks, I started picking up on key words: turn over, field goal, punt, kick-off return, and the like; but I didn’t know what any of them meant.

One game I asked Eric, “What’s a down?” He looked at me in surprise. I’m not sure if he was offended by me interrupting the game, or shocked that I asked him a question about football after quietly “watching” it for weeks. Either way, he regained his composer quickly and politely answered my question.

Slowly I began learning the basics: What was a penalty, what was special teams, and how did that yellow line get across the field so quickly? Eric never tired of answering the same questions many times over.

After an entire season, though I loved seeing Eric’s excitement for football, mine was yet to blossom. I still found the games boring, even though by this time I understood the fundamentals.

But I stuck with it. The next year I continued to watch one game per week.

Then came 6 October 2003.

The Indianapolis Colts were playing at the home of number one rated defense in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fourth quarter…

Less than four minutes left…

Tampa Bay: 35…

Indy: 14…

What followed was one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

For the rest of the game, I found my knuckles were white due to clenching my until-then-forgotten knitting needles (I would relax my hands only to notice I was doing it again a minute later).

I realized I was holding my breath.

The time for every play, though only a few seconds, seemed stretched like homemade taffy as those seemingly impossible 21 points were achieved in less than four minutes.

I had never seen anything like it. (Four minutes!)

Then Indy actually won in overtime when a field goal that was deflected by a Buc, somehow made it the 29 yards, then bounced off from the right upright, yet still went in.

What are the odds?

And through all of this I was a stereotypical football fan — hooting and hollering, wrapped up in the excitement, as this underdog team pulled off the unimaginable.

Eric’s interest in football was now my own.

I moved from passively being in the same room as my husband to actively spending time doing something with my husband. Watching football became something we did together — playfully fighting when we rooted for different teams and feeding off from each other’s excitement when we wanted the same team to win.

My new found interest blessed me in other relationships as well. Following football is a major pastime among most guys I know. Being able to discuss football with a level of clarity has allowed me to have better relationships with coworkers and friends.

Strong communication is essential in a healthy relationship, and when communication centers around a shared interest, it becomes exponentially meaningful, fun, and entertaining.

Think about it. How wonderful is it for you to be able to discuss something you find thrilling with someone else who knows what you’re talking about?

I’m not telling you to go and learn about football, but if there is something your friend or spouse values, take the time to discover what it is all about. You’ll start to see the beauty in it, and your relationship will grow.

Image: ©iStockphoto.com/3bugsmom

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Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

James 1:19

Empathetic listening is one of the easiest and most important ways to keep women happy. Women feel validated in a relationship when they feel understood. They are quality-driven in their relationships. They share their feelings simply to be listened to.

They talk about problems without looking for solutions (because it makes them feel better, which is more important than actually solving the problem). Women communicate with the hope someone will empathize with them.

Kristin’s Story:

I have a friend who struggled with when to add a child to her family. We had casually discussed our thoughts and feelings on that topic before, but one day things were different.

I found myself putting in my own two-cents but slowly discovered that wasn’t what she needed. Whenever I interjected my own thoughts into the discourse she did not exchange or connect with me as she usually did.

It was like I was placing detours in the conversation, and my friend just impatiently listened before continuing down the road she was on originally.

Shouting at Brick Wall.PinkTagI paused to take an objective view of what was going on. Suddenly I could tell that this was no longer a far away issue — my friend had reached a point where this internal conflict needed to be resolved.

She was agitated. Struggling with this decision caused her mind to wonder from immediate tasks. I could almost see the knots inside of her, twisted upon each other.

Kristin’s Analysis:

Here she was, baring an intimate part of herself, and I was turning the conversation into something about me (my views; my opinions), which was making matters worse.

She needed to have the opportunity to release all the toxins this conflict was creating, and that release was through the use of words.

So I became slow to speak and tried to let her know through short words and body language that she wasn’t alone — that I supported her in whatever the decision ended up being.

I didn’t try to solve her problem; I just listened. And later, I shared in her joy when she shyly told me she was pregnant.

It is hard to find something greater than a friend who is willing to unselfishly listen. When a trial is overwhelming you, a friend who sacrifices time and energy in order to listen is a true companion.

Eric’s Story:

Last week, right after Kris and I finished hashing out what this article would be about, she started sharing what was being discussed in her Bible study group.

They were discussing fellowship, and Kristin was upset.

She asked questions such as, “Why isn’t there more fellowship in churches?” and, “How can the sixty seconds after the Pastor says, ‘Go greet someone you don’t know’ be considered fellowship?”

She went on (“Fellowship should be about accountability and friendship”) for a couple more minutes.

Because she was excited, I began answering. “You can’t expect real fellowship the first time you attend a new church…. Relationships take time to develop…. Friendships don’t happen overnight….”

And right in the middle of my tirade, it hit me. I said, “…for children. Isn’t that what it means to be an adult — to be responsible for your own life? [This is where it hit.] And I’m having a typical male reaction, aren’t I?” We both laughed.

Eric’s Analysis:

The truth is that Kristin wasn’t really complaining about fellowship. She knows relationships aren’t instantaneous. She knows churches hold numerous functions to foster friendships. She knows sixty seconds of “how are you?” isn’t considered by most pastors as fellowship.

Kris didn’t want my advice. She didn’t need my solutions. She needed someone to listen, and as her husband, I should be the safest person for her to go to in order for her to get the empathy she needs.

Aside from the amusing story above, I’m usually pretty good at being an empathetic listener to Kris. I’ve grown accustomed to holding my opinions to myself and giving her undivided attention when she needs it.

Unfortunately, listening with no response isn’t always what’s needed. For all you men out there, here’s a piece of advice that will help you steer clear of a common pitfall.

When I’m unsure if Kris wants me to offer advice or solutions (because sometimes she does), I ask, “Are you looking for advice, or venting?” Nine times out of ten she responds, “Just venting.”

But this is where so many men fail in communicating with women. Guys think that because the woman is “just venting” that they don’t need to listen.

When a guy vents, he doesn’t care whether or not anybody is listening. When a guy vents, he is usually thinking out loud.

But when a woman vents, and you want to see that woman happy, her venting better be the most important thing in the world to you.

Oh, and guys, empathetic listening is much easier than most of us think.

When Kris comes home frustrated over something at work which I can’t solve (this happens a lot with Kris as an officer in the military; most of her frustrations are caused by “classified” problems), all I need to do is give her my full attention, attempt to feel her pain, then give her a hug and a kiss when she’s done. Problem solved.

The next time you find it difficult to communicate with a woman, simply listen. Do your best to place yourself in her shoes, consider what she says, ask questions in order to understand what she is going through, and validate her feelings.

She’ll trust you more, you’ll be happier, and your relationship will deepen.

Image: ©iStockphoto.com/PinkTag

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