When I was growing up, my rabbi used to say, in a thick Israeli accent, “You hear, but do you really hear?” His point, that my psychology professors also drove home, that as someone is talking to us is that we are busy formulating our answer, bringing together points to refute their argument or simply being so emotional that we are not focusing on what our partner Is saying. If we are more intent on being heard, or winning the argument, we are hearing but not really hearing.
Once we get in that pattern, we make assumptions about what is being said. Because we are not truly listening, and acting on assumptions, we are usually wrong. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have worked with families and couples and have helped them to really hear what was being said, that their response is often, “Really? That is what you are trying to say?! Oh! I am okay with that!”
What will help you to really hear? Slow down! Stay present! So, when your partner is talking, do not think about your response, simply hear their words. Once you have heard, then clarify to make sure that you heard correctly. You may something like, “Before I respond, I want to make sure that I understood what you said” and then say what you heard. Let your partner have an opportunity to say if you did hear it correctly. Or not.
Then take the time to think about what was said before you make a response. Make sure that your partner actually heard you. Then go forward. On the one hand this slows down the conversation and it will take longer. On the other hand, think of all the time you will save by not being in a fight!
Challenge yourself. You hear, but do you really hear?