How ‘Stranger Things’ is like the ‘Fine Art’ of Listening (& Linkup)

My husband and I have been watching the Netflix series “Stranger Things” lately, and I see a metaphor in that show that perfectly illustrates the “Fine Art” of listening. What is it? Well, let me lay some groundwork before I reveal that answer.

Listen Better

There’s no hiding the fact that my husband and I have had some whopper-sized fights over the years. And I’m convinced that we would have avoided every one of those arguments if we had made listening to understand our primary focus, rather than trying to be heard and understood.

In marriage, 9 times out of 10, our approach needs to start with trying to understand our mates before getting our mates to understand us. There’s just something offensive and counterproductive about protecting our interests over protecting and understanding our spouses’.

My focus needs to start with understanding my mate, rather than forcing my mate 2 understand me. Click To Tweet

That is where the metaphor comes into play (spoiler alert!). In the Netflix series there are several portals that lead to the “underworld” in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. The townspeople have an urgent need to reach this underworld because certain characters have gotten trapped there and are trying to escape an alien-like creature on the prowl. Eek!

Those portals are like the “Fine Art” of listening, in that listening grants you passage into your spouse’s cold heart, as well as providing the warmth you need for your own heart to thaw out.

How to develop the “fine art” of listening . . .

1. Carve out daily times to listen to your mate. 

Now, you don’t even have to tell your mate that you are doing this. Just start listening better, more attentively and without an agenda to any thoughts or feelings that your spouse shares with you. Encourage sharing by asking questions that help to draw out more.

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” ~Proverbs 20:5

Check below for ideas on questions to ask.

2. Whenever your spouse opens up, listen at least twice as much as you talk.

Know the old saying?

“God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we would listen twice as much as we speak.”

You might worry that your quiet or withdrawn mate won’t open up, so you need to fill the space in order to connect. I would say, resist that urge by asking some of the questions I share below. And remember, sometimes a mate will grow quiet because there hasn’t been enough of an invitation or “room” to open up in the past.

3. Use open-ended questions as a “portal” into your spouse’s world and feelings.

Make it your mission to discover what your spouse is feeling by asking questions that draw out his/her thoughts and feelings, rather than discussing what you think they are! 😉

One good question that my hubby and I ask each other regularly is: “What was a high and low in your day and why?” 

A good and simple follow up to that question is, “Tell me more about that.”

Here are some other helpful questions:

  • “How can I help you in that situation?”
  • “What are some of the feelings this situation is stirring in you?”
  • “What are you confident you did right?”
  • “If you could change your response, what would you do or say differently?”

Your goal is to listen so well that you begin to feel compassion and empathy for your mate’s feelings. If you listen and do not feel empathy, then keep on listening until you do!

Listening well in marriage involves entering your spouse’s world. #empathize Click To Tweet

4. Reflect back your spouse’s words. 

Anytime you feel yourself veering toward a disagreement, typically misunderstanding is occurring. So check to see if you’re understanding your mate correctly by paraphrasing back what you heard your spouse say. Doing that can deescalate tensions and helps to bring clarity! Besides, it will feel so good for your mate to know he/she has been heard and understood!

Click on the link to read more posts in this “Back to School series—7 Lessons on Learning to Love Well When the Winds of Marriage Grow Colder.” Next week, I’ll be sharing one final lesson I’ve learned in marriage by looking at the subject of Social Studies” to examine “How Your Behavior Changes the Culture in Your Marriage.”

 

What other questions would you add to my list above?

 

What is one way you need to improve as a listener with your mate?

 

Be sure to scroll down below to comment! 


Here are some lovely linkups I join – Mondays @ Soul Survival,  Moments of HopeLiterary Musing MondaysTestimony TuesdayJennifer Dukes LeeWriter WednesdayCoffee and ConversationCoffee for Your HeartSitting Among FriendsFaith and FriendsFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

Let’s Get this ‘From Messes to Messages’ Linkup Started!
Add any links that are uplifting, helpful and encouraging to our spiritual lives, marriages and families! Be sure to add a link on your blog back to “From Messes to Messages” or Messy Marriage as well. For linkup guidelines/button, click here.

Messy Marriage

  • “Listen at least twice as much as you talk.” That’s a challenge for must of us females!

    • Yes, it is indeed, Debbie! Thanks for stopping by to comment and for tweeting about this challenge we all need to take up in our relationship and marriages!

  • pioneerpat1

    Very true. My friend’s son who wrote and directed “Creed” put this in the movie: https://youtu.be/DGl9E07vTfc, which is something I try to live by. Thanks for hosting and have a wonderful rest of the week.

    • I’ve wanted to see this movie but haven’t gotten around to it just yet. So thanks for sharing about this bit of connection you have with the film and the important reinforcing “punch” it gives to our topic today, Patrick! 😉 Much appreciated and very interesting to hear about!

  • Bettie G

    Yes, you are so right, that so many of the arguments in marriage begin because of misunderstandings! I have found that especially true as we take the time to really hear each other, my husband & I often end up saying things like, “OH! I thought you said…, when really you were saying …” Thanks for this encouragement to keep listening! Blessed to be your neighbor over at #TellHisStory this week!

    • Yes, that’s so true, Bettie. We are all in such a big hurry in life to get things done and to figure things out that we miss the most important piece – understanding! That can really draw a couple together in a powerful way when it is done consistently, even if we mess up on the first try! ha! Thanks for stopping in and encouraging me, my friend! Great to visit your place as well!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth! I think this will serve as a spur to greater understanding…and many marriages will survive when they might have perished. You do such good work!

    One thing I might suggest is “know the filters through which you hear”. I’m a terminally ill Asian combat veteran (“I’m a fighter, NOT a lover!”), and my wife is just about my exact opposite (and yes, to me, all Anglos do look pretty much alike, though I have learned to pick Barbara out of a crowd).

    I can accept levels of pain and the unavailability of health care with a composure (real, not feigned) that she simply cannot understand, as she told me again this evening. She doesn’t see what point I find in living, WHY I want to see tomorrow.

    And the only way I can explain it is in concepts that are alien to her. I tried; I said that in northern Burma the Karen people live in daily persecution, and the only medical care they receive is from their own traditional healers and the odd and suicidally brave missionary. How can I complain, when these my brothers are in a leakier boat?

    If their lives matter to them, why should not mine matter to me?

    But she’s never met a Karen, and has never smelled a mass grave, and her world is so very different. Not better, and not worse. Just different.

    She can never understand my paradigm, but I can try to understand hers, and I can listen with a full and teachable heart.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/09/your-dying-spouse-364-worth-pain.html

    • Yes, it’s hard when our spouse’s don’t fully understand all that we’ve experienced and have been influenced by–for good and bad, Andrew. But I see where you are coming from and know that with these filters in place, it is hard to really understand your perspective. That’s what I hope the need to put aside our agendas comes into play. It’s kind of an abstract statement that could yield yet another post just on that one pursuit! But I know you get it and am grateful that you found this to be helpful content–if not for you and Barbara, for others. Thanks so much for pushing through the pain to visit me here and encourage me as well. It’s always great to see you when you can show up! Prayers are being lifted for you, my friend! Always a daily pursuit on my part!

  • #1 is important! Honestly, this has been a struggle since our seconds been born. We feel like dinner, where we use to catch up at, isn’t really an option now. Now it’s a time where our oldest wants to tell us all about her day and the youngest is demanding food. Now our catch up time seems to be in moments where oneis down for a nap and the other is occupied or right before our bed time when they are both asleep.

    • Yes, it is, Cassie. I think a lot of people miss just how important it is, since it is so simple. And yet not so simple when it comes to a family like yours that is in the really challenging child-rearing years. Life often revolves around the many necessary demands of parenthood, but that can be so destructive to a marriage. I hope that you and your hubby figure out that balance. It was a tricky one for me and my hubby back in the day. But I’m so glad we did some preemptive things to keep ourselves connected and feeling heard! Thanks for visiting and linking up! I’ve missed seeing you around!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Beth,
    Proverbs is SO rich with advice I need to heed on my tongue and on listening! I am always wanting to jump in and add my two cents when really my two cents is not needed. When I see my husband’s mental wheels churning I will often ask, “So what are you thinking right now?” or “What’s on your mind?” He’s very much an introvert so I’ve learned that I often need to let silence linger for awhile before he’ll speak. So true that God gave us one mouth and two ears – use them proportionately. Great advice here this am.!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Me too, Bev! My tongue lets words run out of my mouth faster than my brain can stop them and speak some sense into them! ha! I say that, knowing that I am in control of those things. I’m no victim to my tongue!!

      I think your questions for your husband are really good and ones that could be added to my list above! My husband often asks me that first question. It kind of unnerves me when he does it randomly, because I’m kind of a private person. It feels like he wants to unlock a door that I’m trying to keep shut for whatever dumb reason! ha! But I push through and tell him and am better for having done so!

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation, joining me in facing up to our lack of listening and being such a great encourager in my life! I am praying for you and your health issues, Bev! Hope you feel God’s encouragement in those scary places!

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        Beth,
        Thanks for your sweet response….I need to learn how to add the response option to my blog…I’m so technologically inept! Anyway, I could REALLy use prayer on Mon the 25th. Going in for outpatient surgery to do a procedure and find out what kind of cells we’re dealing with. I’m quite nervous and praying it’s not the big “C”. I know God has me and He’s got this….still it’s very unnerving in the waiting….
        Thanks sweet friend,
        Bev xoxo

        • Do you use Disqus? That’s a plugin you can add to your blog and it will give you this reply option. Don’t know what website platform you use, so I suppose that could mean you wouldn’t be able to use plugins. But it’s pretty straightforward on how to add it, if I remember correctly. Some plugins leave me scratching my head, but I don’t think I had that problem with Disqus. But it’s been probably 4 or 5 years ago that I installed it! So my memory might not be the best!

          I will certainly be praying for you and hoping to hear a good outcome from your upcoming surgery. Enough of the pain already! ha! But I’m grateful you are trusting God has you–because He does!

  • Susan

    I am a good listener WHEN I stop everything else I am doing and focus. IF I try to multi-task through a conversation, i.e. typing while on phone? Forget it – I haven’t heard one word. My husband is a terrible listener – he’d rather talk. SO, when I have something he really needs to hear? I make it a point of getting his 125% full, undivided attention – then I have a 50-50 chance of being heard. Not great odds, eh? 😉

    • Yes, I can say the same of myself. As you’ve said, Susan, the trick is to stop and really focus in on each other. I’m glad you have encouraged that total focus with your hubby. It really does make a difference to give total eye-contact and mental-engagement when we speak with one another. Especially when we talk about “matters of the heart.” Thanks for your continued encouragement here, my friend!

  • Hey Beth! Point # 2 is really hitting home for me. Lately, the Lord has really been showing me the wisdom of James 1:19 – Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. If I could just employ that principle in my marriage (as well as other relationships) conversations would flow way more smoothly. Thanks for hosting and have a blessed week!

    • Yes, I am guilty of that one too. My hubby is more of the extrovert between us, but uses up all of that extroversion at work and then doesn’t want to work at it at home. He will, but it’s easy for me to fill up the space and time with my own thoughts and words, instead of encouraging him to speak about his own day, etc. I do hope you can employ that principle in your marriage. I’m sure you’re right about it improving the flow and feeling of connection. You have a blessed week too! And congrats again on your beautiful daughter’s wedding!

  • Mary Flaherty

    Great points. So hard to do in the heat of the moment, because once we’ve gotten to that “heat of the moment” place, we’re already thinking of ourselves. Listen twice as much as you want to talk. Oh my, that’s a tough one for me. For us, arguments occur pretty much every Saturday morning on our way to a hike. Hubbles likes to follow along on a map (he doesn’t believe in “Googling” or “MapQuesting” the directions) while I drive, but his directions are sometimes vague, and I typically miss turnoffs because he has his head in the ipad folllowing the route. EVERY SINGLE WEEK we go through this.

    Last week, we got lost, and we both tried to blame the other (it was his fault). I could feel the pressure wanting to pop out my ears and my mouth, and I literally squeezed my lips closed. “I will not blow up, I will not blow up” I seethed to myself. But I admit, I made a rather forceful U-turn (just to get my point across that I was NOT happy). You’d think we’d learn. But no. Every week. Finally, I had a revelation. We process information and follow directions differently. We just need to figure out a happy medium instead of insisting our own way is right (even though mine really is). Thanks for this, Beth!

    • Yes, I actually had a snippet of content about that “heat of the moment” in this post, but left it out because it was getting to be a longer post than I typically want to publish. I always strive for being as short as possible, since people have so many other blogs to read, but I digress! ha! Anyway, you are right, Mary! Once our pride gets triggered, “I” have an awful hard time turning the Titanic around! ha! But must zip my lip and find out exactly what my spouse is trying to communicate.

      I love your authenticity at your blog and in these comments. You never hold back or try to spin it in any way other than in humble humor! I can totally relate to the whole challenge of navigation in marriage–even with all of these great apps and gadgets to help. Seems like Satan doesn’t want to let that issue rest, no matter how technology tries to help us!

      So glad you had that new insight and it is making a difference. It always amazes me how a change in focus and thinking can change the way we react in times of stress more than any other strategy! Thanks for highlighting that here. Love ya, girlfriend! Wish we lived closer!

      • Mary Flaherty

        I didn’t say it was making a difference. I had the revelation but I’ve yet to implement it. Im still waiting for him to come around to my way of thinking. Aargh! Someday we will meet up in person! We’ll be a taking a four hour drive to Vermont next weekend. That should be fun.

        • You are too funny! Well, I thought it was a good idea that you were encouraged by. Here’s to hoping it works on this next road trip!

  • Communication can be so hard. God is showing me the same thing about how important it is to understand the other person and have empathy–especially when you disagree and that’s often the hardest time. That’s why I think it takes a determined effort to change. Thank you for another great post Beth!

    • You bet, Valerie! I think it’s probably one of the hardest challenges in marriage. And you bring up another important facet from this post–empathy is so very important to develop in our marriages! I hope others don’t miss that key component and practice. It’s one I strive to improve on daily and have far to go even after 30 years of marriage! Thanks for joining the conversation and encouraging me, my friend!

  • The prayer of St. Francis (which, apparently, had nothing to do with St. Francis, but is lovely anyway) addresses this topic, and it’s in my thoughts often:
    “Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love . . .”
    Of course this goes against everything in our human nature, so we need God’s help to do it even half as well as we should.

    • I love that quote, Michele! Thanks for sharing it, for it really speaks to the attitude we need to keep with listening in marriage. Understanding is crucial to feeling connected and feeling connected is so crucial to feeling good about our marriages and lives. Thanks for adding that to the conversation!

  • Thank you, Beth. More great advice and I’m going to intentionally try to follow it this week! I needed these reminders and appreciate them, too. I think #4 is really important and I’m not good at doing that. I’ve done it with some others recently so I won’t misunderstand what they are telling me, and it makes perfect sense that I should also be doing this in marriage. Thank you, Beth for the things you have brought out in this series about marriage.

    • I’m glad you found this post helpful, Leslie! That really encourages me! And yes, number 4 is more important than most people realize. But it’s also the one that feels most awkward to incorporate and do. But if you’re already practicing it in your other relationships, it shouldn’t feel as daunting to start in your marriage as others who don’t even try this with others. It’s something I’ve had to develop in my counseling and life-coaching, so it’s a bit easier for me to do in marriage. But truthfully, I often get lazy in conversations with my hubby and let it slide, when I really need to focus in on it! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, girlfriend! Always good to hear from you!

  • Oh that #2!! Beth, I’m putting this one in my pocket. Sometimes we just need to zip it, clam up, stop thinking what we have to say is utmost. Even and especially after 40+ years together.

    Superb post, friend.

    • Yeah, I think it’s one that a lot of us resonate with, because we are guilty of it! ha! I even do this with Gary too much–my extroverted hubby! He uses up all of his extroversion at work and then wants to go blank when he’s with me. That’s when I’m guilty of talking more than listening! I think I should fill up the blank space with my chatter and I really need to connect with his heart instead! Thanks for stopping by and always encouraging me, my friend! You are a keeper!

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  • Hi,your tips as usual are so spot on and helpful. Thank you for faithfully linking up with the #LMMLinkup this week. Once again your post was the most clicked and featured at http://maryanderingcreatively.com/lmml-accepting-writing-challenge/

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  • Great tips for marriage and any relationship. I needed these today. My husband and I seemed to be somehow not communicating very well this weekend. I think all had to do with listening. Thank you.

  • Such important points, Beth. I pray I have gotten better at listening through the years. Thankfully, my husband is a good and willing communicator. I just need to stop and really listen. Thanks for hosting and lots of fall blessings!

  • Christian Stress Mgt

    I love this notion “listening to understand rather than trying to be heard and understood.” Thank you for sharing it.