How to Listen Without Getting Defensive

How to Listen Without Getting Defensive

5. Ask for a re- frame

If your partner is saying something that is triggering, ask them to say it in a different way. “I’m feeling defensive by what you’re saying.

Can you please reword your complaint so I can understand your need and explore ways we can meet it?”

6. Push the pause button

If you notice you’re having trouble focusing as the listener, ask your partner to take a break from the conversation. This is a proactive way to self-soothe and prevents your emotional brain from flipping its lid.

You can say,

“I’m trying to listen but I’m starting to take things personally. Can we take a break and restart this in 20 minutes? Your feelings are important to me and I want to make sure I understand you.”

During this time, focus on the positives of your relationship and do something that is productive. I prefer to go for a walk.

Once you’ve learned to self-soothe, it becomes a lot easier to ask your partner to help you calm down. If you find yourself struggling, tell your partner what’s on your mind.

For example, “Hun, I’m feeling flooded. Can you tell me how much you love me? I need it right now.” vs. “You’re the one with the problems. Fix yourself!”

The latter reaction comes from a place of fear and often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The former gives your relationship a fighting chance and the possibility to create a more secure bond.

Conflict is not only a catalyst for understanding, it’s also a vehicle for personal growth. I like to think of relationship conflict like an oyster.

Oysters don’t intend to make beautiful pearls. Instead, pearls are a byproduct of the oyster reducing irritation created by grains of sand. In the same way, conflict can inadvertently create connection and closeness.

After listening to Suzanne, Braden takes a deep breath. “I hear you saying that my reaction to your request for help with the kids made you feel like family doesn’t matter to me. I can see why you’d be so upset with me.”

A tear rolls down Suzanne’s cheek. This is a major breakthrough for their marriage.

Long-lasting love requires courage. The courage to be vulnerable and to listen non-defensively, even in the heat of conflict. Especially when we are hurt and angry.

Next week we will teach you the profound power of empathy and its ability to improve the way you approach conflict in your relationship.

By Kyle Benson


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