By John Goetz
The idea of self-help and self-improvement has been around as long as I can remember. Dale Carnegie wrote The Art of Public Speaking in 1910 and followed it up with a series of self-help books through 1990. This past weekend I changed brake pads on my car after first consulting a You Tube video. Americans spend their weekends on home improvement projects and their evenings cooking a new recipe from Rachel Ray viewed on their iPad. Many tasks are within the range of your average adult and the majority of us recognize when a project is beyond the reach of our abilities and experience. We go to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned twice a year and we try to floss and brush twice a day to keep our teeth healthy. This blend of personal and professional care applies to a wide range of health care issues. With this in mind I am going to give all the couples out there a technique they can use to improve their relationship with their significant other outside of marriage counseling. It is called the speaker listener technique.
To put this skill into practice you will need a 5 minute timer, two chairs, and a space free of distractions. One person will go first as the speaker and the other assumes the role of the listener. The speaker will talk for 5 minutes following these rules. First speak for yourself, use the pronoun I, and don’t mind read. Keep your statements brief and give the listener time to paraphrase what you just said. The individual in the role of the listener focuses on what the speaker says, paraphrasing what they heard; focus on the speaker’s message, don’t try to reply or rebut with your own thoughts. The listener might use canned phrases like “I hear you saying …” or “I understand you to be saying …” allowing them to reflect or restate the content of what the speaker is saying. If the listener is paying close attention they may even be able to reflect back to the speaker the affect or feelings behind what is being said. Then the speaker and listener will switch places.
If a couple will participate in this exercise every night for 30 days they will find some remarkable things happen. First, they will feel that, for at least 5 minutes, their significant other is actually paying them undivided attention. Listening to the content of what is being said and reflecting it back is a sure fire way to let someone know you are truly listening to them. Second, while using this technique it is very difficult to argue. Since the listener’s job is to only listen and reflect there is no rebuttal and, thus, no arguing back and forth and over each other. Third, listening closely enough to accurately reflect the feelings of what is being said increases emotional intimacy. If you, as the listener, reflect the excitement or frustration in my conversation I know you are truly focused on me and my experiences. In blunt terms, this is the basis of seduction, and who doesn’t want to be seduced by their significant other.
So, for you “do it yourselfers”, give it a try. Five minutes speaking and listening for a total of 10 minutes a day is probably the time it takes to brush and floss twice a day, and I guarantee it is just as effective. Edmond Family Counseling offers a full range of counseling for you and your family. You can read all our articles on our blog. www.edmondfamily.org Donations are appreciated!