Understanding Relationship – The Key is to Talk Less, Not More 


By Gary Moore 

It’s frustrating when someone accuses us of something without hearing our side of the story. Our boss yells at us for coming in late, saying we should have had the decency to at least call and let him know. If they had asked what happened, we could have explained that we did call but his voice mailbox was full. But when those tough conversations begin with accusations and assumptions, we find it hard to communicate well. 

People are starved to be listened to. We have many conversations, but true listening doesn’t happen very often. Constant conversation is like trying to survive on a junk food diet, while listening provides the balanced emotional nutrition that gives us life. 

Dr. Mike Bechtle breaks the process down this way: 

  • We all have a need to feel valued.
  • When people listen to us, we feel valued. When they don’t listen, we feel like we don’t matter.
  • The need to feel valued is strong. If nobody is listening, we talk more, hoping to catch their attention so they’ll listen.
  • Everybody’s doing the same thing, trying to get people to listen. So, everybody’s talking, and nobody’s listening.

Over the years, we’ve developed a culture of talkers instead of listeners. We’ve developed a collective mindset that giving advice is more valuable to people than listening to them. If we want to help someone, we just tell them what they should do. Sounds helpful, right? They have a problem, and we have a solution. It’s a match made in heaven. 

There’s a problem. Advice almost never solves problems. Listening does. This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true in most cases. If someone gives advice, we don’t feel like listening. But if they listen to us, we feel like seeking their advice. 

Think about the last time somebody gave you advice – or used facts and figures to convince you that your position was wrong and theirs was right. You probably didn’t say, “Wow! That’s so much better than my perspective. It’s obvious that my position was wrong. I’ll immediately change my thinking and do exactly what you suggest.” No, you probably thought they were crazy or arrogant – and either argued with them or simply withdrew from the conversation. 

When we want people to listen to us, our natural tendency is to talk more. After all, when we talk, it gives them something to listen to, right? But the exact opposite is true. The best way to get someone’s attention is to listen to them. People instinctively want to hear what someone has to say when that person has first expressed genuine interest in them. 

The more important a relationship is, the more valuable listening is. When two people in conflict keep talking “at” each other, they’re pouring fuel on an open flame. But when those same two people learn to listen to each other, the fire runs out of fuel and cools down. 

Listening is a skill that anyone can learn. It’s not reserved for introverts or sensitive types. If that’s so, why don’t we listen? 

There are a number of common situations in which we find ourselves talking instead of listening: 

  • We believe we’re right. If we’re convinced of our position, it’s easy for us to think the other person is ignorant or stubborn. We don’t really want to hear their position because listening would be pointless.
  • We think the problem is the other person’s fault. If we believe the other person is to blame and we’re absolutely blameless, we don’t feel the need to explore our part in the issue. We simply want the other person to shape up.
  • We’re afraid of criticism. If we don’t like conflict, we do whatever we can to avoid it. We present our position and get defensive when the other person talks, which effectively shuts down communication.
  • We feel we deserve to be treated well. If we interpret the other person’s approach as criticism, we shut down. We feel like we’re not being respected, so we’re not open to hearing their perspective.
  • We’re afraid we’ll lose ground if we admit we’re wrong. If two people are trying to determine who is right and who is wrong instead of exploring the issue, the conversation stalls. If we admit we’re wrong, we feel like we let the other person win.
  • We want to be in control. We don’t like being a passenger in a car with a crazy driver. They’re behind the wheel, and we’re afraid of what’s going to happen. We’d much rather be in the driver’s seat.
  • We think faster than they talk. If someone takes their time forming their ideas, we want to finish their sentences for them to move the conversation along. We get bored and distracted, so we give up listening.

When we find ourselves not listening, that should be a trigger for us to analyze what’s happening in the relationship. Becoming conscious of the underlying reason for our inattention is the first step in developing a solution. 

So, the key is to talk less, not more. The same letters make up the words listen and silent. 


Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for 15 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He has a weekly radio program – Life Point Plus – on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. His website at www.mutualunderstanding.net has video teachings and other resources for couples. He may be contacted at [email protected]. 







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