It’s not easy to meet in the middle. I’ve observed this from the many couples who’ve met with me in my counseling office. But most of all, I’ve experienced it in my own life as I’ve wrestled with my pride. That’s just it—pride distorts our thinking. It makes us think we are better and, for lack of a better word, “righter” than we really are.
So here’s my prescription for meeting in the middle . . .
Make your goal: listening to understand –
Not talking to convince your partner of your point!
- This means you ask your partner what he or she feels is the problem, then refrain from adding your point of view.
- Next, ask at least two clarification questions to gain greater understanding about the context of your problem, your partner’s feelings, and what your partner perceives is your role. (You might feel that by this point you understand enough to give your partner your perspective, but I would urge you to wait just a bit longer.)
- Now rephrase what you thought your partner said and ask, “Did I get that right?”
- If you did, then you can ask to share your thoughts on the problem. But if you didn’t, continue to ask questions and rephrase until you both feel that you understand what your partner is trying to say.
Open yourself to see where you may have failed or not understood.
This is where the external communication turns to the internal dialogue. You need to take that critical eye that you’ve used to zero in on your partner’s flaws, and turn it back on yourself! Prayer is necessary at this point, because God illuminates the inner deceptions that we cannot see on our own (Psalm 139:1-4 and 23-24, Jeremiah 17:9-10).
Admit your misconceptions and mistakes as you apologize.
If you take this leap of faith and expose your mistakes and failures (and we all make mistakes!), then you will feel as if a huge weight has been lifted. Not only that, but the closeness you’ll achieve with your partner will be greater than you ever imagined. Do it consistently, and a deep respect and love will grow between you and your partner, repairing years of damage. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen—not just in my client’s marriages—but also in my own!
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, . . ” James 1:19 (NIV)