How to Listen Without Becoming Angry
It is necessary to be able to listen in order to really understand your spouse. Listen with your whole heart and mind. Couples are encouraged to listen to one other’s concerns without feeling attacked, and as wonderful as this sounds, it is frequently unattainable in real life circumstances.
When you say (or don’t say) anything that hurts your partner’s emotions, there’s a strong want to interrupt and explain, “That wasn’t my goal. ” Even before your partner has finished speaking, you may say, “You’re misunderstating me.”
Unfortunately, when the listener responds to what the speaker is saying before the speaker has had a chance to properly express themselves, both parties are left feeling confused and frustrated with one another.
In Dr. Gottman’s ATTUNE paradigm, the letter “N” stands for Non-defensive listening, which is appropriate in this situation.
When you are in defense mode, you are more likely to succeed than when you are offensively motivated.
Listening without being defensive is a difficult ability to learn for the majority of us to achieve. The latter is particularly true when one of our partners brings up a trigger that we are both familiar with. A trigger is an issue that is emotionally charged for us—typically something from our upbringing or a prior relationship—that causes us to become emotionally reactive.
It’s true that the adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” has some validity, but it fails to recognize the reality that trauma and regretful events may leave us with scars.
Various factors may be at play here, including: Perhaps you’ve been wronged on a number of occasions or have seen unfairness in your interpersonal interactions. It is possible that these recollections from our past may exacerbate encounters in the future.
Perhaps you experience a similar sense of control as Braden.
Whenever his wife, Suzanne, reminds him that he has to make sure the kids’ supper is ready before going to the gym, he replies with, “Stop behaving like my mother!”
Braden eventually shuts down after making a couple more defensive remarks.
Braden’s chest tightens at the prospect of Suzanne bringing up a complaint at their State of the Union discussion. He feels under control whenever she makes a complaint that includes a request for him to alter some aspect of his routine.
listen with self-comfort
If the speaker wants to complain without blaming the listener and express a positive desire, it’s critical that the listener learns how to self-soothe so that the speaker doesn’t flood the conversation with complaints.
Unless you learn to self-soothe, your emotional brain will overwhelm your logical brain, which is the portion of your brain that is meant to self-regulate and communicate, and you will “flip your lid,” saying or doing things you don’t mean.
For example, according to Dr. David Schnarch, “Emotionally committed partnerships react better when each partner controls himself or herself by confronting it, soothing it, and mobilizing it.” This is due to the fact that the greater the ability of both partners to control their own emotions, the more stable the relationship will be.
By enabling you to preserve your own well-being and your connection with your spouse through a difficult discussion, self-soothing helps to strengthen your relationship’s stability.
What Braden did was as follows:
At their State of the Union Meeting, Suzanne took the lead as the speaker, putting his triggers at ease by expressing her issue without attempting to exert control over them. “I was upset because it seemed to me that our children were not a priority for you when I inquired about making sure they were taken care of,” he writes. “You reacted by telling me I was behaving like your mother,” he adds.
I want to make certain that our children are well-liked and accepted by their families. “I’m in desperate need of assistance.
Despite the fact that Suzanne is expressing her feelings via “I” statements, Braden is having difficulty understanding what she is saying.
He aspires to defend himself and inform her on how she is overbearing and uncompromising. He is aware, however, that he is not permitted to express any of these emotions until he is called upon to speak himself. And when that occurs, he must be attentive to the triggers that she uses to set off her reactions.
In the next section, you will find several techniques that Braden used to assist him cope during his State of the Union address.
What your spouse says and any defensiveness you may be experiencing should be written down
Dr. Gottman recommends using a notebook to jot down everything your spouse says, which is particularly useful if you’re feeling defensive at the moment. In addition, this aids in recalling what has been said when you are asked to reflect on what you have heard or when it is your time to speak. Make a conscious effort to remember that you are listening to your spouse because you are concerned about their suffering. It is also beneficial to tell yourself, “I’ll have my time to speak and share my emotions about this,” when you are feeling anxious about anything.
Keep love and respect in mind at all times
When having difficult discussions, it’s beneficial to keep your attention on your feelings of love and respect for your spouse as much as possible. Revisit happy memories and consider the many ways in which your spouse has shown his or her affection for you. Consider the ways in which they encourage you and make you smile. Keep in mind that the happiness you provide to each other is more essential than this disagreement, and that working through it together will lead to even more of it.
The top right corner of my notebook contains a quotation or a pleasant memory that I have written there to remind myself that I love my spouse and that this disagreement has the ability to bring us closer together. Dr. Gottman recommends repeating to yourself, “In our relationship, we do not disregard one another’s suffering,” as he does in “What Makes Love Last? ” I have to acknowledge the pain you’re experiencing right now. In order to learn to self-soothe, you must first learn to detach your relationship from the anger and pain you’re experiencing as a result of this specific problem.
Take a deep breath and relax.
To self-soothe, it is beneficial to slow down and take deep breaths. Relaxing your body should be your first concern. It may be beneficial to doodle. Avoid becoming absorbed in the action or losing track of what you’re saying while you’re doing it. Simply state, “I am trying to remain present while I listen, and things is coming up for me so I am trying to quiet myself so I can really hear you,” if your spouse sees you calming. Do not forget to set aside time to discuss your partner’s needs and goals.
Keep your composure.
Creating a solid connection with oneself as an individual, according to Dr. Schnarch, may be accomplished by learning how to self-soothe and accept their own feelings. In many cases, when you feel overwhelmed by your partner’s words or actions, it is not because you are responding to him or her. It’s because you’re interpreting what they’re saying and putting your own unique spin on their words and phrases. If they’re angry with you, it’s possible that they’ll abandon you. You may also believe that you are not being a good enough spouse as a result of this experience.
Investigate your own thoughts and beliefs about what this conflict implies and how it may affect you by turning inside. In addition to being strong, it is important to recognize that your partner’s complaint may be valid. We all have skewed images of ourselves that we cling onto. Certainly, I’ve done so.
Please don’t consider your partner’s dissatisfaction as personal attack.
Especially if the complaint is about something you did or didn’t do, this seems to be impossible. Examine why you are becoming defensive if you see yourself becoming defensive. Think about why you’re being defensive. So, what exactly am I attempting to safeguard? Your partner’s complaint is about their needs, not yours, so try to keep your defensiveness under control so you can be there to help them out.
Solicit a revision of the situation.
As soon as your spouse says anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, ask them to say it again. By what you’re saying, I’m feeling defensive. We ask that you kindly revise your complaint so that I can better understand your needs and discuss options for meeting them.
It’s okay to ask your partner to step away from the discussion if you realize that you’re having difficulty listening. In this approach, you may self-soothe in a proactive manner and avoid your emotional brain from flipping its lid. Alternatively, you might argue that although you are attempting to listen, you are becoming personally offended by what you are hearing. We’ll have a 20-minute break, and then we’ll resume. I am concerned about your emotions and want to ensure that I fully understand them. Keep your attention on the good aspects of your relationship and engage in anything constructive throughout this time period. Take a stroll instead, if you can.
You’ll find it much simpler to ask your spouse for assistance after you’ve mastered the skill of self-soothing. Whenever you find yourself in a bind, communicate your concerns to your spouse. “Hun, I’m having a bad case of the flu.” Please tell me how much you adore me. “I’m in desperate need of it.” In contrast to “You are the one who is having difficulties.” Repair your own situation!
The latter response arises out of a sense of dread and often results in a self-fulfilling prophesy being fulfilled. With the former, you offer your relationship a fighting chance and the opportunity to build a more solid connection.
Conflict serves as a catalyst for knowledge as well as a vehicle for human development. Relationship disagreement reminds me of an oyster, which I find comforting to think about. Pearls aren’t something that oysters want to be. A byproduct of the oyster’s metabolism, pearls help to reduce discomfort caused by sand grains. Conflict, on the other hand, may unintentionally foster intimacy and connection.
When Braden has finished listening to Suzanne, he takes a long breath and continues, “I hear you stating that my response to your plea for help with the kids made you feel that your family didn’t important to me. As a result, I understand why you’re so angry with me.” Suzanne’s face is flushed with tears. In terms of their marriage, this is a significant milestone.
For a relationship to endure, bravery is required. Even in the midst of a heated argument, it takes bravery to be vulnerable and to listen without becoming defensive. This is especially true when we are wounded and furious.
Practicing listening without being defensive is possible.
It provides room for both parties to feel heard when we take the time to listen to how they are feeling rather than quickly and sometimes impulsively responding. Try this practice to improve your ability to pay attention and listen actively.
If you’re like the majority of people, you’ve probably had the experience of listening on autopilot, when you believe you’re listening, only to discover as soon as someone finishes speaking that you have no clue what they were talking about. A notification on your smartphone, an annoying sound outside, or your thoughts drifting back to a news story you just read were all possible sources of distraction.
It’s difficult to fully block out all distractions, particularly in this day and age when there are so many of them.
Alternatively, it’s possible that you barely heard half of what was stated since the topic matter had you in a fear-based state. It’s a typical reaction: when someone says something we don’t agree with, it’s possible that we may feel intimidated rather than really hearing and thinking about it. When this happens, the amygdala is activated, which prepares us to fight back.
When someone says something we don’t agree with, it’s possible that we may feel intimidated rather than really hearing and considering their point of view and arguments.
Genuinely listening to how another person is feeling—without instantly and sometimes impulsively reacting—creates room for both sides to be heard and then show up with compassion and an ear that is more aware of what they are saying.
This may be done in any dyad, whether it is romantic or not. It is in this manner that you take the time necessary to stop and consider why you are feeling threatened, and then continue to really listen, without being aggressive.
It is possible that you may encounter distractions and triggers when attentively listening; nevertheless, you can practice observing your distractibility without passing judgment on it and attempting to refocus your attention back to the speaker and the words that are coming from them. You may focus on developing compassion for yourself when you feel the urge to lash out; you can also do the work that allows you to become more sensitive to why you are feeling triggered, so that you can learn to take a pause before responding to anything.
How to Become More Conscious of Your Listening
1. Find a companion to participate in this activity.
2. Set a two-minute timer for yourself.
3. One person starts talking about anything they want, which may include how they feel about the relationship, or it can be about anything. Because the purpose of this exercise is to practice continuous listening, it is best to make the subjects light and entertaining.
4. The listening partner puts his or her skills to the test. Nonverbal replies are acceptable at this time, but verbal responses are not allowed at the present moment.
5.The listener now takes a few moments to rapidly write down one to three important points that the speaker made, as well as anything that triggered them or distracted them from paying attention over the previous two minutes.
6. set the timer for another two minutes.
7. Now reverse the roles such that the person who spoke first becomes the one who is being listened to.
8.The listener should take a time after two minutes to rapidly write down one to three important points that the speaker made, along with anything that triggered their attention or distracted them from paying attention.
9. After each of you has finished speaking, take note of any ideas, emotions, or physical sensations that were generated as a result of this experience. Together, with compassion and nonjudgment, take note of what is happening.
10. Express your appreciation to one another for taking time out of your hectic schedules to work on your relationship.
Make a commitment to performing this practice once a day for at least a week in advance. You may think about continuing this practice for more than a week, or you might try it for a week and then come back to it at a later time.