couple having a discussion

Why You Should Listen First, Without Immediately Trying to Resolve An Issue

It’s a very common scenario for couples. One of you is struggling with a problem, so you share the details with your partner. Let’s say you’re the partner hearing about the issue. You feel sympathy and concern. More than anything, you want to relieve their stress. So, you start laying out possible solutions. After all, if something is broken, the natural move is to fix it.

Despite your heart being in the right place, this can be frustrating. Your partner might be looking more for validation than suggestions. To them, being heard is the precise “solution” they need. But how were you supposed to know this?

Listening or Resolving?

If your partner’s problem is a pickle jar too tight to open, it’s common to assume resolution is the immediate goal. Unfortunately, life’s problems are rarely that obvious and simple. But if you decide you’ve done enough listening and just skip to the “fixing,” you risk making the situation more tense.

As mentioned above, you can come to the rescue simply by offering a compassionate ear. In other words, you listen and resolve at the same time. The tricky part is getting comfortable being someone whose first instinct is to listen.

How to Get Into the Habit of Listening First

To engrain a new pattern requires you to do some solo work. The ideal first step on this journey involves acceptance. Even when you feel confident that you have the exact solution to the problem, you must accept that everyone has their own way of handling a crisis. What appears logical to you can be rejected by someone else.

Generally speaking, this is not about “right” or “wrong.” So don’t let this become a contest of potential solutions. It’s far more productive to take such situations on a case-by-case basis and remain flexible and open. Here are a few concepts to keep in mind:

Validationcouple having a discussion

Your partner might come to you to talk about a conflict they had at work. They’re upset and triggered thus, it can mean the world to them to just tell the story. Tell them you’re ready to listen and then live up to that pledge. Stay focused, check your body language, and note the emotions your partner displays.

It’s tempting to analyze the story or even express a desire to tell off the co-worker in question. But careful listening is the ideal starting point. When your partner has finished replaying the incident, you can validate their frustration and then move to the next step.

Asking For Guidance

Rather than attempt mind-reading, directly ask what you can do to help. Let your partner decide if they need a hug or an immediate solution (or both). It’s their crisis, so let them control what happens next. Follow their cues and save any big-picture questions or comments for a different time.

Be Prepared

It can be tough to read the room in moments of tension. Therefore, it makes sense to plan in advance. During a moment of calm, discuss how you prefer comfort when a problem arises. Such a preemptive discussion can prevent misunderstandings in the future.

Couples Counseling is an Ideal Way to Address Such Situations

Couples’ best-laid plans often go astray. Partners get locked into patterns, and when a crisis pops up, they fall into predetermined roles. Working with a couples counselor is a proven way to address such patterns and move toward new methods of communication. When you are ready, don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about couples therapy.

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