5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

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5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Opening your heart to your spouse—and nurturing theirs—requires listening well. With so many different issues, obligations, devices, and people pulling at us from every direction, it can be difficult to slow down and truly listen to one another. Listening can be pleasant, but sometimes it’s downright hard. Sometimes, you might want to tune out and lose yourself in your favorite pastime instead—or dive into the list of to-do items you still need to cross off before the day is over.

But to have a healthy, thriving marriage, it’s critical to truly listen to your spouse with empathy and generosity. Today, we’re sharing five ways you can be a good listener for your spouse.

1. LISTEN WITH EMPATHY

When you practice empathy, you’re putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and seeing things through their eyes. Whether you’re trying to resolve a conflict or just simply listening to your spouse talk about their day, it’s beneficial to both of you to listen with empathy when your spouse speaks to you. For you, it gives you a window into their world and their perspective. For your spouse, knowing that you’re listening from an empathic vantage point helps them feel secure.

Maybe your spouse needs to vent about work, and normally, you tune out when they start talking about their tough day or their challenging project. Instead of switching your mind off while they talk, try to see the events of the day through their eyes, and in the context of your life. Have you been dealing with problems at home, like financial issues, trouble with the kids, or taking care of an ailing parent? Contextualizing your whole life along with what’s happening at your spouse’s job will help you understand the level of pile-on they’re dealing with.

2. LISTEN FOR EMOTION

When your spouse needs to talk to you about something—especially if it’s something hard—it’s easy to get wrapped up and carried away by your own emotions on the topic. In that case, you might respond to your spouse in a totally inappropriate way in your attempt to alleviate the difficult emotions that come up for you. Instead, take a minute to listen for what your spouse might be feeling. This type of intentional listening goes hand-in-hand with empathy.

Once you’ve identified what your spouse is feeling—whether it’s anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or excitement—you can adjust your responses based on their emotional state. It gives you an extra chance to check yourself before you say or do something that might exacerbate the emotional state they’re in. When our emotions go into a tailspin, it can be difficult to keep communication healthy.

3. LISTEN WITHOUT BIAS

You’ve both got your opinions, and it’s hard to let those opinions go in favor of simply listening to one another. Listening without bias is helpful when you have opposite stances on certain issues, or when you’re locked in a stalemate during a fight. Set your opinions aside for long enough to hear what your spouse is saying, then practice your empathy skills to try to understand why.

This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion to match your spouse’s. What it does mean is that your spouse deserves to be heard, and you can’t truly hear if you’re filtering everything they say through your own bias.

4. LISTEN LOVINGLY

When you’re communicating with your spouse, it can be helpful to use loving gestures and body language to let them know you care about what they have to say. It can be as simple as holding eye contact and nodding to affirm what they’re telling you. You could also reach out to touch them or hold hands. Turn your body toward them, or even stop what you’re doing and just sit with them if that’s what they need.

While you may be able to go about your business and have a conversation at the same time (and that can be okay sometimes), there are going to be times where you need to just put everything down and focus all your attention on your spouse. Turn off the TV, put down your phone or other devices, forget the to-do list for a little while, and give your spouse loving affirmation through eye contact and touch.

5. LISTEN GENEROUSLY

Your spouse needs the gift of your time and attention. It’s hard to take time out of our busy lives to generously give our energy to listening when we have so much to do every day, but communicating openly is key to a healthy marriage. When you listen generously, your spouse will feel secure in coming to you with their concerns, hopes, and fears.

If you would like more help with listening and communicating well with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

5 Ways Empathy Can Neutralize Conflict With Your Spouse

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5 Ways Empathy Can Neutralize Conflict With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Empathy is defined as the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. It’s a critical component to success in all types of relationships, but it’s particularly valuable in marriage, a place where peace and harmony are paramount to success.

Practicing empathy can effectively neutralize conflict and restore peace to your marriage. Here are 5 ways being empathic toward your spouse can benefit you both and nurture lifelong love.

1. EMPATHY OPENS YOUR EYES TO ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW.

When you empathize with a person, you put yourself in their shoes. You’re able to view things from their perspective. Empathy gets you out of your own head and gives you a chance to consider situations from a variety of angles. This is especially helpful when you’re working through conflict with your husband or wife.

When you’re in defense mode during a fight, you’re invested in protecting and promoting your own opinion on the issue at hand. It can be difficult to hear your spouse out when you’re passionate about making your point. But when you put empathy into practice, it can help you step out of that defensive stance and into a more open mindset.

2. EMPATHY HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR SPOUSE FEELS.

Emotions run high when you’re working through conflict together, and it’s difficult to handle your own feelings, much less identify with your spouse’s. Practicing empathy will help you understand your spouse’s feelings, whether or not you agree with them.

Having a greater understanding of both of your emotions gives you a big-picture view of what you’re both dealing with. If you can get inside your spouse’s feelings, like fear or anxiety, you’ll be able to suss out ways to calm those emotions–or even make space for positive feelings to take their place. Empathy creates emotional safety, which will help both of you come to a resolution with as little pain as possible.

3. EMPATHY REVEALS YOUR SPOUSE’S MOTIVATIONS.

When you’re in the heat of battle (or just a simple misunderstanding), it’s all too easy to make assumptions about your spouse’s motives. Often, we decide–without actually asking our spouse–why they’re taking a certain position on a contested topic. Without empathy, it’s easy to fill in the blanks for our spouse. And unfortunately, we tend to assume that their motives are not in our best interests.

While you might not understand why your spouse disagrees with you, or why he or she made a decision you’re not happy about, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to hurt you. And when you step outside your own assumptions and leverage empathy instead, you’ll be able to see that more clearly.

4. EMPATHY KEEPS CONFLICT FROM ESCALATING INTO IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE.

When you don’t have empathy for one another, a simple fight can descend into an all-out war. If you don’t check your reactions to one another, you could easily start hurling insults, calling names, and assassinating each other’s character. And these kinds of damaging reactions don’t do anything except run your marriage into the ground.

Being intentionally empathic will help you bite your tongue when you’re aching to scream at your spouse; it will keep your anger in check and help you think about what you say before you say it. If you’re in touch with your spouse’s emotions, you’re not going to want to say or do things to cause them more pain. Using empathy to guide your actions and reactions will never fail either of you.

5. EMPATHY CAN HELP REDUCE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FIGHTS.

Empathy is its own special brand of preventive medicine. While conflict in marriage is inevitable, showing empathy toward one another could actually help you to avoid unnecessary arguments in the future. And when you do butt heads, you’ll be less likely to let your conflicts escalate into a full-out fight.

If you would like help with empathy and conflict with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

5 Ways to Turn Sympathetic Statements Into Empathetic Ones

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5 Ways to Turn Sympathetic Statements Into Empathetic Ones

By Jared Wolf

“Sympathy” and “empathy” are two words so often used interchangeably that it’s rare to find two people who agree on exactly what the difference is.

The way I see it, sympathy is “feeling for,” and empathy is “feeling with.” Put another way, sympathy is telling someone you care, while empathy is showing it. At Crisis Text Line, we like to think we’re in the empathy business, and value empathy as a skill — it’s the key tenet of our Crisis Counselor training, which prepares our volunteers to work with people in crisis via text message.

We recognize everyone’s experience is different. It’s impossible for any one person to know exactly what another is feeling, because they’ll never be in precisely the same set of circumstances.

That’s why we don’t think of empathy in terms of sharing a person’s experience, we think of it as actively listening and genuinely trying to understand that experience to reflect back what it might feel like.

There are many ways you might be practicing sympathy in your life that can easily be turned into more meaningful and powerful acts of empathy.

1. Hold back on the advice.

The instinct to give advice is totally natural, but that’s often not what people are looking for. Bits of (sometimes terrible) advice are a dime-a-dozen, but thoughtful listening is rare. Instead of offering a friend unsolicited advice, try asking what they think they should do.

Example: “You know yourself best. What do you think would be most helpful to you right now?”

2. Avoid showing pity.

There are few things that make a person feel smaller than the sense that they’re being pitied. Replace expressions of pity (anything along the lines of “You poor thing”) with identifications of the person’s strengths.

Example: “You’re showing so much self-awareness in this situation. It’s really admirable. Thanks for being brave enough to come to me with this.”

3. Don’t assume you know the whole story.

When someone is telling you about their experience, it’s easy to believe you know exactly how they feel. Again, it’s impossible to know exactly how someone is feeling. Replace “I know you feel…” with more tentative statements lik1e, “It sounds like you’re feeling…”

Example: “It seems like all this has left you feeling embarrassed, is that right?”

4. Validate difficult emotions.

Expressing painful emotions is never easy, and can leave someone feeling vulnerable. You can help mitigate the fear around it by validating the way someone is feeling, and letting them know it’s OK to not be OK.

Example: “It makes perfect sense that you’re feeling frustrated right now.”

5. Ask questions.

When someone’s struggling, showing a real interest in what they’re saying goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to come right out and ask questions that allow them to further explain how they’re feeling. The caveat is to avoid “curiosity questions,” or questions that seek details, but don’t do anything but feed into your own desire to know more. Another type of question to avoid is the “why” question, which can sound judgmental, even when it’s not meant to be. Try rewording “why” questions into “how” questions to make them more effective.

Example: “How were you feeling when this first happened?”

Turning your sympathy into empathy takes practice, but if you keep these five strategies in mind, you’ll be well on your way to being a more empathetic friend, partner, coworker and family member.

In a crisis? Text HELLO to 741741 for free, 24/7 support in the US with a trained Crisis Counselor.

If you are not in crisis and would like to talk with a counselor or coach, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003. If you are in crisis, please call 911, text the information above, or call Netcare at 614-276-2273.

The Biggest Communication Problem

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Listen, then respond. Empathy and understanding must precede advice.
-Jennifer Dowling

If you would like help with your communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Great News for Those Reading Non-Digital Books

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If you struggle with memory or comprehension, reading is a great mental exercise to strengthen those faculties.

As we are more and more submerged in the digital age, and as more people are starting to read books and news via the internet or a digital reading device, the question arises, “Is reading a digital book as helpful as reading an actual physical book?”

There have been arguments about the benefits of both categories, but now there has been a scientific study showing that holding a real, physical, non-digital book in your hands is better for you in the areas of stress, empathy, and sleep.  The article below explains the study.

Open Book Reading

Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books

By Rachel Grate

‘s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books. 

Reading in print helps with comprehension. 

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page. 

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text. 

Reading long sentences without links is a skill you need — but can lose if you don’t practice. 

Reading long, literary sentences sans links and distractions is actually a serious skill that you lose if you don’t use it. Before the Internet, the brain read in a linear fashion, taking advantage of sensory details to remember where key information was in the book by layout. 

As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning. A 2006 study found that people read on screens in an “F” pattern, reading the entire top line but then only scanning through the text along the left side of the page. This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf worries that “the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing.” Individuals are increasingly finding it difficult to sit down and immerse themselves in a novel. As a result, some researchers and literature-lovers have started a “slow reading” movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty making it through a book. 

Reading in a slow, focused, undistracted way is good for your brain.

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate. 

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper. 

Reading an old-fashioned novel is also linked to improving sleep. When many of us spend our days in front of screens, it can be hard to signal to our body that it’s time to sleep. By reading a paper book about an hour before bed, your brain enters a new zone, distinct from that enacted by reading on an e-reader. 

Three-quarters of Americans 18 and older report reading at least one book in the past year, a number which has fallen, and e-books currently make up between 15 to 20% of all book sales. In this increasingly Twitter- and TV-centric world, it’s the regular readers, the ones who take a break from technology to pick up a paper book, who have a serious advantage on the rest of us.