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Listen to Understand

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

In today’s podcast, Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace walk through an example of a relationship conflict and discuss the benefits of using the Speaker Listener strategy to emphasize the message of listening to understand.

Mandy:    Welcome to another Art of Relationships Podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.
Chris Grace:    Mandy, thanks for bringing us back to this podcast. And how fun it is to, Alisa, be with you and to be talking about all things relationships.
Alisa Grace:    There you go. Welcome to The Art of Relationships, brought to you by The Center for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. So, you can go check us out there at All kinds of cool resources; podcasts, blogs, and events-
Alisa Grace:    Video clips. Yeah, all sorts of resources. Some are free. A lot of them are free. Some for a really minimal cost, but we encourage you to go check out that website.
Chris Grace:    And Alisa, you and I get an awesome opportunity to speak really all over about relationships, and so we've been, just in the last month, I think we've been to Augusta, Georgia-
Alisa Grace:    San Diego, Pittsburgh-
Chris Grace:    Yeah.
Alisa Grace:    ... Just got back from Pittsburgh-
Chris Grace:    Right.
Alisa Grace:    ... And speaking with FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. And we do colleges and universities as well. But Alisa, I think one of the things that maybe would be fun for this podcast would be something that happened at a recent conference. And at a recent conference, we were talking with a young married couple that were struggling with something. And I think, Alisa, we shared with them an idea about what does it mean when you are in conflict with somebody that you love and you care about, and it may be one of your early conflicts, but all of a sudden you start to feel at odds.
    You're no longer together as a team. Now, it's really a very important, maybe, juncture. This junction can go one way or the other. You can deal with this conflict or run and hide. We faced this-
Alisa Grace:    Yeah.
Chris Grace:    ... And we dealt with it in a negative way a bit where one of us, you, would run and hide.
Alisa Grace:    Okay. I'll own it. Yeah, that's true.
Chris Grace:    And I would pursue, but I didn't oftentimes pursue it in the right way. Also, there were times in which it was just hard to bring up difficulties. So, we ran into a common question, and it was about a scenario. And why don't you tell them about the scenario that they were facing?
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. Well, they were having a conflict over their work schedules. They were both in ministry. He was a pastor, and she worked for a local Christian ministry, and they were having a problem about how much time he was spending working; working at the church, conversation with people, coming home late. And they felt they had just kept talking and talking and talking, but they were just stuck and couldn't get to a resolution.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. So, they approached us and said, "Man, we hear what you guys are talking. We hear some of the ways in which conflict can be used for our advantage, that is. We told them, and lots of marriage conferences and marriage experts say, actually conflict can work well for your relationship. You just have to learn how to turn that conflict into greater intimacy. And they're, "How? It doesn't make any sense because it's just pulling us apart, but we get the concept. Conflict can make you closer."
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. We actually had a friend that called them "family growth sessions".
Chris Grace:    Yeah. That's right. It can lead to greater intimacy, but the practical ways of doing it. So, we just sat down and talked about it. So, I thought, Alisa, and you mentioned this as well, what if we did a podcast on helping listeners who are needing to have that conversation, who are butting heads, who are coming up upon a conflict that just keeps going around and around and its circles, and that cycle of conflict just keeps going and it gets worse, and then pretty soon you don't even want to talk about it, you're angry, and you bring up the topic and it makes you both mad.
    So, we thought there's a technique and some couple of hints that we have that work for us. And it starts literally with three Ps, right? You talk about those.
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. When you're getting ready to have a hard conversation, whether it's with your spouse or really anybody else, we recommend the three Ps. That you pause, pray, then proceed. So, pausing is really to just, if maybe you're in the middle of that conflict and you just need to call a timeout because you are getting hot, you're getting really ticked off, you're really hurt, and so you just need to call a timeout.
    And you'll know when you need to, because your body's experiencing what we call "flooding". That's where your body temperature increases, your heart rate goes up, your breathing is really fast, and you just feel that knot in the pit of your stomach, "Oh gosh!" And you're really getting into that fight or flight sense. So, we recommend just taking a pause. Call a 20 minute break, because it takes at least 20 minutes for your physiology to settle down, for your heart rate to slow down, your breathing.
    And during that time is a great time to pray. You don't want to rehearse the conversation or the injustice of your partner or the other person, or how mean they were or what you wish you would've said. That's what I always do is, "Oh man!" I come up with a perfect line of what I should have said right at that point. And that is not the time to do that, because that's just going to keep you really stirred up.
    So, during that time is a great time to just pray. And we always recommend that Psalm 139:23-24, where David was praying and he says, "Search me, oh God, and know my heart." Try me and know my anxious thoughts. Not the other person's, but know mine. Show me, Lord, if there is any offensive way in me, and then lead me in Your everlasting way. Let me ask you this. Why do you think it's so important at the very beginning of that, Chris, to pray through that?
Chris Grace:    Well, I think what it does is, it's just to show you that a lot of us go into this argument and this conflict it seems where we believe the other person is wrong. We believe if God can just show them the era of their ways, why are they doing it this way? They're messing up here. And I think that maybe re-points where this really needs to take place, and it's in our own hearts.
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. It's the idea, if you would just change, everything would be fine. But really, we don't have any power over the other person. All we can do is examine our own heart, and then look at what part of this, to what degree am I part of the problem, and really be willing to be honest before the Lord, and just in that time that you're pausing, to be willing to be honest and vulnerable and say, "Lord, what part of this problem is me? What do I need to take responsibility for?" And we had somebody that described it this way, get a little can of yellow paint and draw a big yellow circle around yourself, and then start there.
Chris Grace:    Yeah.
Alisa Grace:    Then, once you've processed that with the Lord, once your biology is settled down a bit, then you're ready to proceed with that difficult conversation.
Chris Grace:    And I think the procedure, Alisa, some of the best advice we heard is, maybe you set a time to have this conversation. It's not when you first come home, it's not maybe you're sitting there just waiting with both guns or both barrels loaded as you're waiting for your spouse to walk in or that right moment. And I think that's the idea. You pray, pause and proceed, and then what you do is, you set up a time to proceed.
    Where? Maybe on a date night of all things, maybe it's going for a drive. Sometimes people talk better in cars. Sometimes you start it off with maybe a text message or an email, "Hey, can you answer this thing for me?" And it's a small amount. And I think "proceeding" is do this, I would suggest as you proceed, cover one issue, not a multitude of things-
Alisa Grace:    Good. Yeah.
Chris Grace:    ... Just start with one. And let's suppose that one person is spending too much money and you're in debt and it's stressing you out, and then they want to go do this and they're also are doing something else in addition to that, and so you said, "But when you take the kids and you go buy things and you don't tell me about it, I don't know how to run our money well that way. But you are always doing that with the kids. You're spoiling them and you're giving them too much. And I'm worried about our spending." It's, okay, hold on.
    As you proceed, pick one issue, and talk about that. Let's talk about maybe this idea of how do you feel about money? What is money to you? And let's go talk about that and learn. And I think, even as you begin that conversation, whether it's a date, you pick that single issue, I think, Alisa, you have to start too with your heart that says, I value the relationship more than winning this argument. What do you think?
Alisa Grace:    That is such a great point, because you could be a 100% right about it, and if you just fight in order to win the argument, you're both going to lose.
Chris Grace:    Yeah.
Alisa Grace:    So, marriage, it's a weird thing where you can win every battle, and then lose the war for your marriage. And it's got to be more important to you to maintain relationship than to be right or win the argument.
Chris Grace:    Man, I think that's so good. That basically just says, listen, you, as a person, are more important than I am. I value that more than winning this argument. So, as we pause and pray, go through Psalm 139, and then proceed. Then, we talked about, okay, you value the relationship more, and you just want to hear the other person. And I think this is where it starts, you cover one issue. Now, Alisa, I think we start getting into the gist of what we liked that helped us. And that is this idea...
    By the way, a guy named Scott Stanley, in Fighting for Your Marriage, popularizes the idea of what's called a "speaker-listener", or other people talk about a "drive-through", or whatever it is, there's just a way of hearing the other person.
Alisa Grace:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Grace:    By the way, some people say, "Well, that's just so stilted and so unhelpful for me to try this speaker-listener technique or-
Alisa Grace:    Psychobabble. Somebody actually called it "psychobabble".
Chris Grace:    Yeah. And the response is, well, frankly, this is not psychobabble. This is actually just a way of talking and listening, and that's all. And we do it at a drive-through. You order something and someone says, "Hey, did I get your order right?" And you could say, "No. I said, no cheese. And I wanted large fries, not small," and so it's just repeating back and hearing. So, really, the goal here, whatever you call it, it's being able to hear to understand.
Alisa Grace:    Exactly. So, we thought it would be really helpful to actually role-play what this sounds like. So, we thought we would go with that couple that we met, maybe, and just work through their issue, and you can hear what it sounds like.
Chris Grace:    Okay, let's do it.
Alisa Grace:    Okay. So, we'll just argue at first like most couples argue, and then we'll move into the speaker-listener technique.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. And the way it happened is, and maybe, Alisa, we'll just do it this way, we'll just pretend it's ours. So, I come home, and you're very upset with me because I've been out working. "And I just get home late at night, and it really irritates me now that I come home and you're mad that I'm late. And I've texted you and told you I was going to be late."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah, but we've talked about it. We've talked about you coming home late, and you told me that you would be home at a so certain time, and then when you're not, you didn't text, or you texted me an hour later. Well, I'm already upset about it then. We keep talking about this. Why do you keep coming home late?"
Chris Grace:    "See, but I did text you, and so that's the point. I texted you and I said I was going to be home. And I said I'd be home at nine, and now it's ... Okay, it's 10:30, it's a bit later."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah, but it's still not fair, because you said that you would be home."
Chris Grace:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Alisa Grace:    "So, I feel that's just leaving me like you don't care."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah."
Alisa Grace:    "That's just not right."
Chris Grace:    Well, okay. So, we can continue with the argument. I think you all know it. We don't want to trigger you.
Alisa Grace:    Everybody just settle down.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. Okay. We get the idea. So, here are two people, very busy schedules. One is trying to just justify that their work left them with no chance or no choice, they had to be late. The other person is, "But you do have a choice, and ultimately you're choosing your work. And your work is more important than me." And that's what's being said, right?
Alisa Grace:    Yeah.
Chris Grace:    "Your work is more important than me," and the other one was, "Why are you making me choose between my work and you. It's not about that. But you're forcing me to say it is, but it's not. I like you better." So, that's the argument.
Alisa Grace:    So, maybe, as we start to unpack this, Chris, let's tell our listeners what steps we're going to go through so that they can recognize them as we do it.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. I think the steps we're going to go through would be this. What we're going to do is say that, first of all, the goal is to take one person and let them speak. And this is where it takes a bit of time where you have to be able to hear them. It's called a speaker-listener. So, one person ...
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. It's the idea of listening to understand. That's going to be the whole goal of speaker-listener technique is that you learn to express yourself clearly, and the other person learns to listen to understand, because good listening takes place when we make it our goal to understand the other person instead of being understood.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. Rather than being understood. That's so cool. That right there is enough to just hang onto and go, "Wait a minute." My goal in this is not to get back at them, not to point out that they're wrong, not to justify, not to win this argument, but instead to search my own heart and to go, "Okay, hold on. Not only am I going to search my own heart, I want to listen to their heart. My goal is to understand them," because I can tell you all my arguments. And the other person, I could give it to you. And in fact, I've rehearsed them over and over and over again.
Alisa Grace:    And we've probably talked about them over and over-
Chris Grace:    Right, right. And the goal though is for me to stop and be the listener. So, okay, it goes like this. So, we recommend this couple listen to understand rather than to be understood.
Alisa Grace:    And you decide, first of all, who's going to have the floor first in this conversation. So, some people even take an object. It could be a piece of paper or whatever's just laying around. Let's say that I'm going to hand you, I actually have my mask here, and so Chris hands me the mask, and he says, "Okay, Alisa, you have the floor, so you go first." So, the speaker's job is to keep it, as Chris said, to one topic that we're going to talk about, and to speak in tweets, not big long paragraphs, but short tweetable statements what the issue is.
    We want to use the "I feel" statements. "Chris, when this happens, I feel this way," because the goal is to get, not just for Chris to hear the words, but for him to hear the emotions behind my words at this point. Then, I'm going to pause after I've told him what the issue is. Then, I'm going to pause and I'm going to say, "Chris, can you tell me what you heard me say?"
Chris Grace:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Alisa Grace:    So, that's the speaker. Then, the listener responds, "Alisa, this is what I hear you saying." Then, he paraphrases what he heard me say, not only the words, but the emotions. Then, he's going to validate and show that he actually really, that he understands. And at this point, it may be that you don't necessarily agree. And you don't even have to agree with what the speaker's saying at this point, but you just want to validate their perspective, put yourself in their shoes and try to see it the way they see it, feel it the way they feel it.
    Like, "Gosh, if I were you, I think I might feel the same way," or, "Gosh, that feels pretty sucky. I wouldn't like that either." Then, you want to clarify and say, "Did I get that right?"
Chris Grace:    Yeah.
Alisa Grace:    Then, the speaker will either say, "Yes, you got it right," or it gives them the opportunity to clarify. And once that speaker feels very understood, then you switch and say, "Okay, now Chris, now it's your turn. You have the floor."
Chris Grace:    No, that's great. And this is how we unpacked it. So, you can put in any issue here. The goal is, as Alisa said, for that listener to get down to the understanding level. And that means to really be able to hear what the feelings are. So, we started, and we ask the couple to do it this way. So, Alisa, you wanted to speak first and I'll listen?
Alisa Grace:    Yeah.
Chris Grace:    Okay.
Alisa Grace:    I'll be the wife's role. "So, Chris, you and I talked about your schedule and how many hours you spend working. And I've shared with you that I would really like for you to be home more. So, when you came home late again tonight, I just felt really frustrated and angry."
Chris Grace:    "Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, what you're saying is, last night when I came home late again, or tonight when ... It made you angry and frustrated that I came home late again from work, and you were angry."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah, after we had talked about it."
Chris Grace:    "So, we had talked about this, and you had an understanding that I wouldn't come home late, but I did, is that right?"
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah. And I think it, when you came home late tonight, like first of all, I felt scared because I didn't know if something happened to you, and so there's that. But then, I think even more so is, I just begin to wonder if I'm not important to you. If-
Chris Grace:    "So-
Alisa Grace:    "Go ahead."
Chris Grace:    ... Okay. So, what you're saying is, when I came home late, it made you afraid that maybe, first of all, something could have happened, so you felt maybe afraid that, instead of getting at home when I said, 9:00, it was really 10:30, and you just were worried."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah."
Chris Grace:    "And then the second thing you said was it, did I get this right, that it made you think that I think that work is more important than you? Is that what you're saying?"
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah. Because we've talked about you coming home on time, and you know that's important to me now. So, when you don't, it makes me feel ignored, like you know but that you're just going to ignore it, that it's going to upset me, and that I'm just really not that important to you, like people at church are of a higher priority to you than I am."
Chris Grace:    "So, you were saying what you felt when I had to stay at work and finish and take care of what I had to, that doing that made you feel that was more important to me than you were, and that I made you feel ignored and hurt because I chose that over you."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah."
Chris Grace:    "Would that be right?"
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah, I think so. It just makes me feel you don't really value me. So, it makes me feel unvaluable. And if I'm really honest, it just starts making me wonder, do you really want to be married to me? It seems if you wanted to be married to me, you would want to be home with me. So, maybe deep down you think you made a mistake, and you don't want to be married to me."
Chris Grace:    "Okay. Yeah. That ... Okay. I'm just going to repeat it. I don't ... Yeah. That's pretty heavy to say that I don't want to be married to you just because I stayed late at work, but I'll just repeat what you said. And that was, it makes you feel maybe I'm choosing something over you, which makes you not feel valued, and therefore you even sometimes can go so far as thinking that maybe I think to myself, 'Oh, I made a mistake. I value this more than her, and I'm not even sure I want ...' Is that what you're thinking? Something like that, that maybe I start to question ... Do you think that I'm questioning if we should be married still?"
Alisa Grace:    "If you want to be married to me."
Chris Grace:    "Aha."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah."
Chris Grace:    "So, really, you start to feel these things when I just came home late?"
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah."
Chris Grace:    "Okay."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah. Yeah, exactly."
Chris Grace:    "Well, that doesn't sound good. And I don't want to make you feel that, and I wouldn't want to feel that way. To hear that you feel unvalued, to hear that you feel ignored is bad, and bad enough, because I don't want you to feel unvalued. That's certainly not what I believe I'm communicating, but I think it's really ... That sounds sucky that you have to experience feeling that way, and that's not at all what I'm thinking or feeling, especially that I made a mistake. And I understand how maybe my behavior can make you start to feel that way, but it's new for me to hear this."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah. Thanks for letting me share that with you."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah."
Alisa Grace:    "I think, here, you take the floor. Let me hear your heart."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah. Well, okay. So, for me, gosh, there's a lot there. Just trying to process your emotion is really hard that you would feel that way, but I'll just say this, when I'm at work and I'm still in the middle of something, our church is large and we have a lot of people and they need to come see me, and sometimes they're in crisis. And I know we've talked about me being late or choosing this, but you knew and we knew going in that this was part of my job."
Alisa Grace:    "So, what you're saying is that when we got married, that I knew beforehand that this was going to be part of your job, and that you're working at a large church, so there's a lot of pulls on you. So, I should have known ... I did know ahead of time that this would be the way your schedule would be."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah, this is exactly what we talked about when we were engaged and I was getting this job, and when I got this job, that part of it was going to be I was going to stay late if needed. I wouldn't want to, but there are people that sometimes crises happen and I have to be available for a crisis, and we knew that. So, I felt you knew, when I took this job that that was going to be part of it. Now I feel, wait a minute, that makes me feel you weren't being honest then, or that somehow or another, you really weren't good with this, you just said that."
Alisa Grace:    "Oh, okay. So, what you're saying is that, because we talked about it, that I knew that your schedule was going to be like this, because that's required of you as a pastor. And when I said yes, that I would be okay with that. Are you saying that I was dishonest about that? I lied about being okay with it?"
Chris Grace:    "No. But now that it really has happened, maybe you weren't dishonest, you just didn't realize that it would have an effect like it did, right? That now, all of a sudden, it's happening, and you're wanting, maybe ... When I come home, you're now questioning my work and my job for the first time, but I was thinking through this earlier, and now for the first time you're going, 'Wait, what's happening.' That makes me feel maybe you're saying it's my problem or my issue, and I feel it's something we agreed on as part of the job. And that makes me feel you're blaming me for something, and I feel blamed or criticized for something that we knew ahead of time was coming."
Alisa Grace:    "So, you're saying because we knew ahead of time, we had talked about it, that now you feel I'm blaming you, and, I don't know, can you talk a bit more about that?"
Chris Grace:    "Yeah. I just feel you're blaming me or you're judging me, I think. And I feel judged when I'm just doing my job, and now I feel not only that, I feel judged by you, but I also feel sometimes, gosh, I can't win. What am I supposed to do? This is my job, and I either stop it or I don't do this anymore. And I feel maybe it's unfair."
Alisa Grace:    "Okay. So, you're saying that you feel I'm misjudging you, is that right, and that that's not fair?"
Chris Grace:    "Yeah, I think so. I think it doesn't feel fair. I feel judged and I feel ... So, okay. I felt I also told you, 'Hey, I'm gonna be late. Sorry, I can't control that. Someone came in.' And I thought you'd be more understanding instead of being ... Yeah."
Alisa Grace:    "Okay. So, what you're saying is that you thought that I would be more understanding about this, and that you feel torn? Are you saying you feel you don't measure up to my expectations or ..."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah. Maybe you're forcing me to choose between my work and what we knew we were going to do and you, and I don't see it that way. I don't see it that way. So, I think it makes me feel judged, torn, maybe unfairly treated."
Alisa Grace:    "Okay. So, you feel it's unfair for me to be upset about it at this point, is that right?"
Chris Grace:    "Yeah. I think that's what it is. And I just wished that you would say, 'Chris, I understand." And it makes me feel not understood, that this is hard for you, and yet I don't feel I'm choosing this over you."
Alisa Grace:    "So, you feel you're not choosing church over me, but that you're torn between the two."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah."
Alisa Grace:    "Are you saying that makes you feel you're not a good husband or a good pastor?"
Chris Grace:    "Yeah. It makes me feel that way. And-
Alisa Grace:    "Oh, okay. Yeah. Well, I can ... Gosh. I can see why you would feel that way then, because nobody wants to feel they're not measuring up to expectations, whether it's their wife or their church."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah."
Alisa Grace:    "And I know that that's a lot of pressure that you must feel."
Chris Grace:    "Yeah." Okay. So, we'll take a pause, listeners. So, this is hard. It's not easy, because at forces you to really listen, you don't always agree, right, Alisa? There are times in which you're hearing is going, "No, that's not what I'm saying."
Alisa Grace:    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly. But the idea is to really listen to understand. What we were arguing about at first was what time you came home, but then what we were able to get down to when we got to that deeper level of transparency and vulnerability, and intimacy even, was that you feel irresponsible and like you don't measure up, you're not a good husband, and misjudged-
Chris Grace:    Yeah, judged.
Alisa Grace:    ... And I felt maybe you didn't even want to be married to me. The weird thing, Chris, is that most people don't even talk at that depth or that level of intimacy.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. And the idea is really getting to not just understanding, but to understand the feelings and to get down to that point. So, I hope that little quick brief exercise helps a bit, for listeners to be able to hear and to say, "Okay, I get it." And, again, there are a lot of different methods out there and ways of doing this. I think Scott Stanley, we were trained, and he came out to the university and trained some of us in some of his techniques called PREP. You could find it in Fight For Your Marriage. There are others out there. Just type in "speaker-listener technique", and you can really find it.
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. And I think what makes this so powerful, Chris, a lot of people want to, when we're teaching about conflict, they want to say, "Well, then, how do we solve the problem?" But what they're missing is this important point that by taking this first step to really hear and listen and understand each other's deeper emotions that are driving the conflict, that's where understanding happens, that's where intimacy occurs. Because I don't talk at this level of deep emotions being bared like that with anybody else but to you, and you don't let anybody else into that deep emotional place, but me. And that's that special place of intimacy and a deeper knowledge and understanding.
    And when you have that deeper understanding of where each other is really coming from, first of all, it dispels the misunderstanding, and then it gives you more empathy for each other, which makes you more willing to compromise, and then come to the solution, formulate a solution. But if all you do is jump immediately to the solution, then what you're going to miss is this opportunity for deeper emotional intimacy to be stronger and closer together as a couple.
Chris Grace:    Yeah, I think that's the goal. The goal, remember, is not to solve the problem, as you said, Alisa, it's not to get to a point where you're saying, "Oh, okay, I get it now. I'll just come home and text you on time and tell you and I'll stand by ..." Okay, yeah, that it may be ultimately you get-to, but I think this is why Psalm 139 is so helpful. It's, "Search me, oh God," and during this process, I think you allow the Spirit to begin to search you and go, "I'm making my wife feel ignored? I'm making her feel unvalued? She's feeling ..."
    And all of a sudden the Holy Spirit is going, "Wait, wait, wait. Chris, do you hear her? Your behavior is making her feel unvalued? She's even questioning your love." And the other person could say, "Oh, my goodness. Lord, the Holy Spirit is, right now, convicting me of making my husband feel judged and belittled and like I don't support his work and I don't support him."
Alisa Grace:    And I'm thinking, "Gosh, I love him. I want him to feel supported. I want him to be valued and to know that I really do value what a hard worker he is. And-
Chris Grace:    So, the next thing you do is what, Alisa? Now, we heard each other. We start to get the feelings. We start to go, "Well, I'm not going to defend myself here for just a second. I'm going to just really hear-
Alisa Grace:    And that's so hard.
Chris Grace:    I know. Then, you could go away and pray about it, and I think, coming back with apologies that would start like this. "Alisa, I'm really sorry. I was wrong to make you feel that by my behavior of not coming home and not texting you and letting you know, and always deciding that I ... And I apologize for that, for making you feel that way. And I'm sorry." You start with that. That's really hard to do, nine words, right? "I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me."
    But you have to go away and you pause and pray and you think about that. Then, you come back together, maybe later on that night or on a different date night, but you come back together and say, "Yeah, you know what? Let's start working on this. I'm going to work on doing a bit better at contacting you and letting you know. Then, it just might remind me, at least too of, I need to really pour into her sense of that I value you and that I care for you and that I love you, and express that more often. You've just stated a deeper need, and maybe I've stated to you this need ..."
Alisa Grace:    "Yeah. I think what I would've seen in that is that I can really value and appreciate your commitment to your calling that the Lord has placed in your heart, to be a pastor in this sense. I can really appreciate what a hard worker you are, and that you've got a really strong work ethic. And your heart is towards me, it is towards God, and it's towards the people that you have been called to serve. And I can really value and really appreciate that about you."
Chris Grace:    And I think, once you get to that point, Alisa, then we could wrap this up by saying, now you come up with possible solutions.
Alisa Grace:    Yeah, brainstorm solutions.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. And you could get to this win-win instead of, "Hey, I'm going to win, you're going to lose," because that never works. But if you get to that, "Well, what can we do?" Now, you can be a team and start tackling the problem.
Alisa Grace:    Exactly. So, we think that if you can put these little steps of the speaker-listener technique into practice, it can feel really odd, really stilted, really unnatural at first, but what it does is it provides a structure, a safe structure for a difficult conversation, to help keep it from being so emotional and when you're afraid of offending, causing offense in each other. Because when you're really focused on listening and you have to paraphrase it back, you're not nearly so focused on, "Hey, wait a second. Here's my rebuttal. Here's why you're so wrong." But it really goes a long way to making you both feel heard and making you both feel understood in a deeper, more intimate way.
Chris Grace:    Yeah. Then, we can always put into practice what Paul said in Ephesians 4:32. You remember that. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you." And I think that's the idea by being kind, tenderhearted, and then learning what it means to forgive and to accept forgiveness as well as to grant forgiveness. And what a cool thing.
    So, we do have this available if you want it. There's a great blog out there. Just type in "conflict" and "speaker-listener" and you'll find this out there on our website. And we hope it's helpful just to take a peek into a couple that we were working with, but this could be any couple. And it was just a general idea of what goes on.
Alisa Grace:    Yeah. And I would say, even after we spend about 20 minutes just walking through this with them, they were, "Oh my gosh, this has really worked for us." And at the end of the weekend, they said, "This has changed everything for us to learn how to do that, and we're really appreciative." And the reason that Chris and I teach this is because we learned this technique and it worked for us. And it was really helpful, especially if you have a hard time knowing your own emotions and expressing them, like me. It's really helpful.
    So, if you find that you get stuck on a certain relationship issue and you need some help, you need that outside objective perspective, we have something at the Center for Marriage and Relationships called Free Relationship Advice. And it's just that. You get free relationship advice from us. It doesn't cost a thing. Just contact us through our website, the, click on the link there, and we'll get you set up with a trusted, well-trained advisor. They can really help you figure out your relationship issue. So, Chris, thanks. It was fun to role-play through this with you today.
Chris Grace:    Yep. Good. All right. Good talk with you.
Alisa Grace:    Okay. Bye.
Mandy:    Thanks for listening to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it, and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at, and make a donation today.