Even just a couple of month's ago, if I'd seen that Amazon Prime was offering the first season of a show called "Couples Therapy" FREE for a month I would have kept on scrolling. The new me, however, the me in desperate search for blog content was ready to check it out.
It was not just that I'm blogging and vlogging now... I did want to see how the reality TV version of a couple's therapist would be portrayed. I cannot tell you how many times I've watched something that had a character as a therapist or one who had to go see a counselor that ended in me with my hands in the air saying, "they would never say (or do) that in real life."
In that light, Couples Therapy was a breath of fresh air. I should also note that this show is not in the ilk of made-up, "reality," but is, in fact a documentary series.
The main character is the therapist herself, Dr. Olna Guralnik. What she does well, that makes her likeable, relatable, effective and legit is actually quite simple - SHE LISTENS!
The guru's call it active listening. You are doing more than just taking in the words of another, you are acting in such a way to engage with those words and relay to the speaker that you are hearing them. Someone, at some point developed the 3 R's of active listening: Repeat, reflect and respond.
A man sits on the couch in Dr. Guralnik's office and says, "It made me feel uncomfortable."
She repeats, "Mmhmm, OK, it made you feel uncomfortable."
He says, "Yes... well maybe more surprised than uncomfortable, but surprised in an uncomfortable kind of way."
She reflects, "and you expressed this to your partner? Did you let them know how you felt?"
They answer. They go deeper.
She responds, "That must have been a very difficult thing for you to process given all that you've shared with me so far."
This kind o
f conversation happened over and over again. So simple, yet so profound. The clients love it. WHY? Because so often, one of the biggest beefs in marriage is that you've got this person who is supposed to live you more than any other person in the world and yet you feel like they aren't listening to you. Clients love it because they finally feel like someone is listening.
Counselors, therapists and the like use this kind of listening power all of the time.
Couples, rarely do.
It is hard to be an active listener because we TEND to process things selfishly.
If your spouse says that something made them feel uncomfortable, many people do not respond in a "tell-me-more" kind of way. Instead, the listener often takes offense or tries to solve the problem.
The counselor has the ability and responsibility to remain objective.
The counselor, in the helping role can help best by understanding the issues. They understand best by listening actively. The have these advantages: they are not emotionally involved (not overly at least), they are entering the conversation with a clear understanding of their role and they are getting paid to do it.
This is why counseling can be good and helpful.
It may also offer some insight on how we can be better listeners.
It may not be reasonable and it could even get annoying if you practiced active listening ALL THE TIME. You could try and see how it goes. For those who may want to ease your way into it try this 2 step:
Redefine your conversations. Conversations go like this. I talk, you listen, you talk, I listen, etc. etc. There is a normal ebb and flow of things. You present your problem, I present a solution. I present my issue, you get mad and storm off. Whatever it might be, there is a give and take. We have all been in the conversations in which one party said something like, "I don't want any solutions right now, I just want to vent!" OK. There is no way that your spouse would be able to magically know when the solutions should come and when the venting is just for venting's sake - so we need to be aware enough to pre-define the conversations or calm and cool enough to redefine them as we go.
Redefine your role. Once the conversation is defined as one in which one person just needs to be heard. The other mate can identify as the listener/helper and go into active listening mode.