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How to Listen Without Getting Defensive

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Understanding your partner requires the ability to listen. Please really listen. Couples are encouraged to listen to each other’s complaints without feeling attacked, which sounds great but is often unrealistic.

When something you said (or didn’t say) hurt your partner’s feelings, there’s a strong urge to say, “That wasn’t my intention.” You misunderstand me,” say even before your partner has finished speaking.

Unfortunately, both partners are left misunderstood when the listener responds to the speaker before the speaker has had a chance to fully explain himself.

This is the “N” in Dr. Gottman’s ATTUNE model Non-defensive listening.

defensive reaction

For most of us, listening without defensiveness is a difficult skill to master. This is especially true when our partners are talking about our triggers.a trigger It is an issue that is sensitive to our minds and usually stems from childhood or previous relationships.

The saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” may have some truth, but it fails to acknowledge the fact that trauma and unfortunate events can leave us with scars. yeah.

This can be due to various things. Perhaps you have been repeatedly hurt or mistreated in a relationship. These moments in our past can escalate our present interactions.

Maybe you too feel controlled like Braden.

When his wife Suzanne said, “I have to have the kids cook dinner before I go to the gym,” he replied, “Don’t act like my mother!”

After several more defensive remarks, Braden fell silent.

Braden is thrilled to think Suzanne will bring up complaints during the State of the Union conference. He feels controlled when she expresses her displeasure that she wants him to change part of his schedule.

listen and calm yourself

It is important for the speaker to complain without blaming and to state a positive need to keep the listener from flooding or reacting defensively, but for the listener to learn how to soothe themselves. is also important.

When you can’t calm yourself down, your emotional brain overwhelms your rational brain, which is designed for self-regulation and communication. “Turn the lid over” And they say and do things they don’t mean.

As Dr. David Schnark states, “Emotionally committed relationships respond better with each partner controlling, confronting, coaxing, and mobilizing themselves.” Because the more a partner can control their emotions, the more stable the relationship.

Calming yourself helps you stay connected to yourself and your partner during difficult conversations, which increases relationship stability.

Here’s how Braden did it.

During the State of the Union, Suzanne started as an orator, keeping his triggers by complaining without trying to control him. “When I asked you to make sure you took care of the children, you said I was acting like your mother,” he says. “I feel hurt that our children are not a priority for you. I want to make sure our children are loved. I need help.”

While Suzanne uses the word “I” to describe her experiences, Braden has trouble hearing her.

He wants to defend himself and tell her how bossy and demanding she is. But he understands that these feelings should not be mentioned until it is his turn to be the speaker. And when that happens, he has to be sensitive to her triggers.

Below are some tools that helped Mr. Braden calm himself during his State of the Union address.

Write down what your partner says and the defensive feelings you’re feeling.

Dr. Gottman suggests using a notepad to write down everything your partner says. This is especially useful when you’re on the defensive. It also helps you reflect on what you heard and remember what you said when it was your turn to speak. Remind yourself that you are listening to your partner because you care about their pain. Finally, it is helpful to say to yourself: It’s my turn to speak and express my feelings about this.

remember love and respect

During difficult conversations, it helps to focus on love and respect for your partner. Recall pleasant memories and remember how your partner showed love. Think about how they support you and make you laugh. Consider that the joy you bring to each other is more important than this conflict. Overcoming this conflict together will lead to more conflicts.

I’ve found it helpful to write a quote or happy memory in the top right corner of your notepad to remind you that you love your partner and that this conflict can bring us closer together. In What Makes Love Last?, Dr. Gottman recommends saying to yourself: In this relationship we do not ignore each other’s pain. You have to understand this hurt. Calming yourself will help you disconnect from the relationship from the anger and hurt you feel about this particular issue.

breathe slowly

Slowing down and taking deep breaths is a great way to calm yourself down. Concentrate on relaxing your body. Sometimes scribbling can help. Do not get lost in the work or stop listening during this time. If your partner notices you’re soothing, say, “I’m trying to stay still while you listen, but something is happening and I’m trying to hold back what you’re saying.” I’m trying to calm myself down so I can ask.” Remember to put off your own schedule and focus on getting to know your partner.

hold yourself steady

Dr. Schnark advises partners to learn how to calm and accept their own emotions and develop strong relationships with themselves as individuals. Often times, when you feel like you are flooded, it is not because you are reacting to your partner’s words or actions. That’s because you’re interpreting what they say and assigning personal meaning to what they say. Maybe their anger makes you feel like they are leaving you. Alternatively, you may feel that you are not a good enough partner.

Look within and see what you are telling yourself about what this conflict means and how it can affect you. Holding on to yourself also means thinking that there may be truth in your partner’s complaints. We sometimes cling to a distorted self-portrait. I know.

Don’t take your partner’s complaints personally

This seems impossible, especially when the complaint is about something you did or didn’t do. If you feel you are on the defensive, try to understand why. Ask yourself, why am i defensive? What am I trying to protect? Your partner’s complaints are about their needs, not yours. So soften your defensiveness so that you are close to them.

request a reframe

If your partner says something provocative, ask them to say it differently. Listening to you, I feel like I’m on my guard. Could you rephrase your complaint so that we can understand your needs and consider how we can address them?

press the pause button

If you find it difficult to concentrate as a listener, ask your partner to take a break from the conversation. This is a positive way to calm yourself down and keep your emotional brain from tipping over. I can say this. I’m trying to listen, but I’m starting to take things personally. Can I take a break and resume after 20 minutes?Your feelings are important to me and I want to make sure I understand you. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationships during this time and do something productive. i like to go for a walk

Once you’ve learned how to calm yourself down, it’s much easier to get your partner to help you calm down. If you find yourself having difficulty, tell your partner what you are thinking. For example, “Hmm, I’m feeling flooded. Can you tell me how much you love me? I need it right now.” The latter reaction stems from fear and often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, while the former gives your relationship the chance to fight and the possibility of building more relationships. sure bond.

Conflict not only promotes understanding, but is also a means of personal growth. I like to think of relationship conflicts like oysters. Oysters are not meant to make beautiful pearls. Instead, pearls are a by-product of oysters that reduce irritation from sand grains. Similarly, conflict can unintentionally create connections and intimacy.

After listening to Suzanne, Braden takes a deep breath and says, I understand why you are so angry with me. ‘ Tears rolled down Suzanne’s cheeks. This is a big step forward for their marriage.

Long-lasting love requires courage. The courage to be vulnerable and listen vulnerable, even in the midst of conflict. Especially when you’re hurt, when you’re angry.

The Gottman Institute’s Marriage Proceedings Email Newsletter helps with State of the Union conversations, effective post-conflict remediation, and more. do you have a minute Sign up below.

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