The secret is “re-creation.”
What exactly does it mean to “re-create?” The dictionary says: Create anew, reproduce, remake.
But, remake what? Reproduce what? Create what anew?
Can you guess?
Someone’s communication, that’s what.
The “how” is the secret.
Let’s take a look at the current state of communication.
Your wife’s upset. She starts to tell you what’s upsetting her, but the second she begins to talk, you butt in.
“Oh, Honey, don’t let that little thing upset you!”
Either you tell her not to be upset, or you start to
help, fix it, or go into “empathy mode” by telling her that the same thing happened to you once.
“I know just what you mean! My boss did the same thing to me last week. I felt exactly the same way. I. I. I. I.
Where does that leave her in this equation? Nowhere. She ceases to exist the moment you open your mouth.
But you’ve read these self-help books before, and you know about “active listening.” So you think that saying “I hear you” or “I feel your pain” while nodding sympathetically, means you’re listening.
Well, it doesn’t.
Everyone knows that’s a trick—a technique—and that you’re not really listening to a word she’s saying. You’re just waiting for her lips to stop moving so you can talk about yourself some more. After all: who’s really more important, more interesting?
YOU are, of course!
You! You! You! It’s always all about you! Have you ever noticed that you have all your attention on yourself? How can anyone else get a word in edgewise?
Shelley and Ken were newlyweds. They did everything together: the grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning. They went to Home Depot together for their light switch plates and outlet covers. Ken even sat with Shelley while she got her fingernails manicured.
One day Shelley left Ken at home while she went to the mall with some friends. She told him she’d be home by 7 o’clock, but she lost track of time and stayed until the mall closed. She didn’t get home until 10:00 PM.
As she opened her front door, she caught a glimpse of a scowling Ken. No sooner was her key out of the lock when Ken began to shout. “What took you so long? You said you’d be home at SEVEN! I’ve been waiting for you for THREE HOURS! Couldn’t you make a phone call? I brought home Chinese food, and now it’s cold! You ruined my whole evening! How selfish can you get?”
Shelley stood at the door in disbelief. She didn’t know what to say. What could she possibly have done to deserve such venom? She thought he loved her. Could a few extra hours at the mall undo everything they’d built together? Suddenly Shelley silenced the chatter in her head and regarded Ken fully. When she really looked at him, it wasn’t anger she saw, but sadness. He was slumped in his chair. His chin quivered. She was sure she saw tears in his eyes.
“Aw, Sweetie,” she said, a big smile spreading across her face. “You missed me!”
Ken’s expression changed. His face brightened. He couldn’t help but smile. She had completely re-created him!
Let’s explain what happened.
When we are upset, we are carrying a burden that we need to get rid of. We need to throw it away somewhere, like garbage into a trash can.
But if our burden is something intangible, we can only speak it away. That’s where re-creation comes in. As re-creator we can take away the upset from our loved one and then discard it.
That’s exactly what Shelley did for Ken. And, once he was unburdened of his upset, there was an opening and a possibility for a relationship. And, when that opening revealed itself, Shelley could say, “Aw, sweetie, you missed me!”
You must create anew, reproduce, and remake her communication, both intellectually and emotionally in a way that you actually feel and think the way she is thinking and feeling at that very moment. When you do this, her upset will lessen, or even disappear.
We like to think of it this way: according to the laws of physics, something cannot exist in two places at the same time. So, doesn’t it stand to reason, if you re-create her communication, she cannot possibly have it anymore?
- This might sound simple and obvious, but we assert that, in the way we mean it, YOU HAVE NEVER REALLY LISTENED BEFORE!
So let’s go over what “listening” entails.
The first thing you have to do when another person is speaking is be quiet. We know you think you understand what that means, but believe us, you don’t. You think it means not to talk, to keep your mouth shut, so your vocal cords do not vibrate. Right? Wrong!
Well, you’re not entirely wrong. You’re actually half right, but that also means you’re half wrong.
When it comes to a subject as important as this, we want to make sure you don’t think that being half right is at least better than being entirely wrong. This would be a good reason not to work at this and, instead, settle for mediocrity. That’s what 98 percent of people do. That’s not good enough for us, and it shouldn’t be good enough for you.
So, what else can you do besides keep your mouth shut?
Did you ever notice that even when your mouth is shut, and you’re not speaking, there is a little voice in your head chattering away? You know; the one that just said, “What voice?” Yeah, that’s the one. Do you hear it? Let’s stop reading for 30 seconds and listen to what it has to say.
Okay that’s enough.
Did you hear it? It probably said something like, “OK, is 30 seconds up yet?” or “Wow, this is dumb” or “I wonder when I’ll start hearing it” or “Yawn. I’m hungry,” or “I wish I’d never bought this book in the first place” or even, “Yikes, where did I leave my cell phone?”
Right? Did you hear it? Of course you did. Don’t deny it. If you deny it, you may as well put down this book and stop reading it right now. Go practice listening to the voice in your head, and come back when you hear it.
For those of you who are still with us, your mind is always talking. Non-stop. About anything at all. You have absolutely no control over it. It is a reactive response to your environment.
Now that would be all right, except that the voice in your head interferes with every single one of your relationships.
You see, when your husband is telling you about his upset, even if you’ve learned to shut your mouth (which you haven’t), your mind is racing a mile a minute. Blah, blah, blah. How could you possibly be listening to anything he’s saying?
Here’s you: “What does he have to complain about? Does he know what kind of pressure I’m under at work? I hope this doesn’t take too long. Meanwhile the dinner is burning on the stove. I wish I’d changed my clothes first. Oh look, the Weinstocks got a new BMW. I wonder what’s on television tonight.”
Your mind will focus on anything other than what he’s pouring his heart out about.
Do you wonder why, after 25 years of marriage, most couples divorce, or end up sitting in a restaurant eating their food in utter silence? It’s horrible. But now you know why. They don’t know each other. Never mind those of us who never knew how essential listening is to a marriage. Even those who know that listening is critical are sitting there without a single word to say.
They listen with their ears; they “give ear” to each other, but it isn’t good enough!