Why does my husband always make me feel like I’m wrong?
Why does my boss always make me feel stupid?
This is the dialogue of self-doubt that plagues the minds of many people in today’s world, but why?
According to Tim Muehlhoff, communications professor at Biola University, conversational climate is an important, and often overlooked, aspect of relationships that can cause people to feel belittled and undervalued.
What can I do to prevent this negative climate in our own relationships?
The key is in learning to listen without interrupting.
“I’m simply going to flesh out what she has to say, I’m not going to disagree with anything, I’m really going to listen, and do perspective taking, understanding where her opinion came from.”
Listening without correcting takes patience and discipline, but it goes a long way in creating a more healthy conversational climate.
“As she’s saying something, I’m thinking, wrong, that’s not what I said, that’s not what the memo said, you’re wrong.”
Sometimes, we feel like it’s best if we correct misunderstandings immediately. However that might not always be the case.
“The book of Proverbs says a wise man overlooks even an insult. If it’s an identity goal, I simply want to affirm this person, to build this person up so that she will have confidence that we can have productive conversations and eventually get to a point where I can actually disagree with her, but right now her identity isn’t strong enough for us to have productive give and take conversations.”
If the climate of the conversation doesn’t support what we want to address, we must address the climate first.
How does this apply to marriage?
“Marriage is one long conversation that’s going to take years and years.”
Tim’s wife uses a Whack-a-Mole illustration to help people understand the importance of listening instead of correcting.
“It’s an arcade game where you put in quarters and moles pop up in different holes, your job is to whack a mole as soon as the mole pops its head up and you get points.”
Unfortunately, some marriage relationships are like a game of whack-a-mole.
“I share my perspective and she’s like wrong. Another perspective, wrong, wrong, wrong, nope, nope, nope. Pretty soon you aren’t popping up anymore because you’re just going to get hit with negativity or you’re going to be disagreed with, or belittled.”
In any relationship, we have to learn how to encourage others to pop up.
“I want you to give your perspective even if I disagree with it, if you’re unhappy tell me. Latent conflict is the worst form of conflict in a corporation or a marriage. I want her to share her perspective, but if every time she does I whack her, well guess what, she’s not popping up anymore to share her perspective.”
Ask God to help you take time to truly listen to your spouse, co-worker, or friend. Let them talk without jumping in and explaining all of the reason they are wrong.