My wife thinks I don’t listen well. She asks me to do something, so I do it, but then it wasn’t what she wanted. Why? Is it that I don’t understand what she wants? Am I really not a good listener?

Sometimes two people can hear the same thing but think it means two very different things. One way to avoid misinterpreting things is to repeat back what you thought you heard the other person say. This can help make sure you really understand your wife, and then you can act accordingly—on accurate information rather than on your (mis-)interpretation.

Here’s how: First, before you act, check in with your wife to make sure you heard what she wanted. Restate what you think you heard. Make sure your tone of voice isn’t defensive, your facial expressions convey interest, and your posture is open. Then ask if you understood what she said, and hopefully the answer is yes! If it isn’t, stay engaged and keep summarizing until you get that “yes.”

Listening is a skill that requires cultivation. For more about this and other useful communication tips, read HPRC's Performance Strategies on basic communication skills.


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