Our cat, Prince, is loving lockdown! Prince, who is a very loved part of our family, now regards his three humans to be at his beck and call night and day. He has a range of techniques to get our attention. When outside wanting to come in, he jumps onto the window sill of my study, so I can see him looking soulful. If I choose to ignore him, he will scratch and meow at the back door nearby, with increasing intensity. At night-time when he is inside, wanting to go out, he employs more dastardly techniques. He knocks our treasures over, taps sleeping faces with his paw, and even jumps onto our daughter! He begins gently, but if we ignore him, he communicates with more and more determination. Maybe, this sounds familiar to you, and maybe it’s not a cat you’re thinking about…
Our communication skills are under the spotlight during lockdown. Being forced to live together much more intensively, will show up some cracks in our relationships. Many households are experiencing tension, frequently aroused by poor communication. Learning to adapt to life in a more difficult environment creates substantial challenges for everyone. In pre-marriage counselling, new couples are encouraged to adopt a ‘we’ mentality to life. How do they create wins for both of them? Good communication skills are required to produce satisfying outcomes. Many people are good at expressing what they want, but fewer listen as well. Effective listening takes more than hearing the words spoken. Listening from the heart goes deeper: tuning into the emotions and non-expressed words, voice inflection and volume, reading body language and facial expressions. Encouraging a conversation partner to say what is difficult for them to express, with affirming nods and noises, using open, sensitive questions, while suspending judgement, kindly elicits more specific information.
When Prince meows, we don’t always run to him. When he waits patiently for us to come, he gets a cuddle or a reward. Likewise, listening well doesn’t mean agreeing with everything we hear. However, listening patiently to understand each other’s viewpoint tends to help defuse a situation. Taking time to cool down and reflect upon our response, gives an even better chance to weigh our desires and rights with others’ fairly.
Take the opportunity to upskill your listening during lockdown. It’s the perfect time to do so!
Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. (The Bible, James 1:19 GNT)
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The articles here were written by Peter Andrews on behalf of the Chaplaincy Team from beginning 2023.