Listening beyond words

In my limited experience of coaching families, I came across many couples, who misunderstanding each other, got into serious arguments. These arguments could have been avoided if they had taken time to understand the actual meaning behind their spouse’s words. Many people resent their partners for not seeing the situation from their point of view. And this holds true for most of the empathetic men or women.

In one of the recent such incidents, I realized both of the partners were not actually listening to each other. The husband would not greet his wife enthusiastically when he reached home after work, because he felt his wife did not react in a good way. He was perplexed that his wife started complaining as soon as she saw him, focusing on how she maintained the house and handled the children all day long. The husband mentioned the wife thought he considered her nothing more than a maid.

The husband fed up of daily quarrels with his wife, started performing his own chores, from making his own breakfast to wash his own plate after the meals. He wanted to avoid the daily argument with his wife, by reducing his wife’s workload.

When I talked to the wife, she felt her husband did not acknowledge her efforts at managing the house while he was away at work. She did not mind doing his work, as long as she got the acknowledgement for his efforts.

Both partners didn’t realize what is important to the other. This issue could have been resolved by understanding the fact that both genders think differently, express emotions differently, and see things differently. The key to understanding each other is to focus on more than just words. If the husband recognized how his wife felt instead of her words, he would have understood the wife’s need for acknowledgement. Similarly, if the wife focused on why the husband has started performing his own chores, she could have found a different way to put her point across.

This article first appeared at

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