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The Art of Listening

Think about communicating with your partner when he or she really needs you to listen carefully and thoughtfully. When your spouse is trying to tell you something, make sure that you can give your spouse your full and undivided attention. If it's not a good time, tell him or her (politely) that another time would be better. Be specific—in l0 minutes, after dinner, tomorrow morning. Just make sure to talk about it when you said you would, even if he or she forgets (or is reluctant) to bring it up again.

Think Twice

Don't put off a conversation for an indefinite period of time. Chances are you'll never get to it, and the issue will only fester. Plan a specific time and stick to it!

When you are listening to your spouse, always ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Are you giving your spouse your full and undivided attention?

2. Do you understand what your spouse is saying to you?

3. Do you know what your spouse wants from you?

To be a good listener, you need to answer “yes” to all of these questions. If you are distracted, suggest a better time to talk. If you don't understand what your spouse is saying, ask him or her to explain again. It's also important to know exactly what your spouse wants from you. If your spouse tells you that he or she has invited people over for dinner on Friday evening at 6:30 pm, you should do several things. You should clarify what he or she wants from you. Approval for the dinner party? That you should be home by 5:30 to help set up? That you need to help with the food preparation? Maybe you are just being asked to be home by 6:30 on Friday, but you should clear that up now before misunderstandings develop. By having your spouse tell you specifically what he or she wants from you, you will be facilitating good communication and preventing a future argument.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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