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5 Great Habits of an Effective Listener

By Dennis Rainey

Communicating in marriage, especially listening, is what blood is to our bodies … it carries the nutrients for life and growth in all relationships.

After nearly 50 years of marriage one might think that I’d know how to listen to Barbara.

I’d certainly think!


The last couple of years have seen me go back to school on how to truly listen and understand her. Think a graduate level course. The bottom line: I’ve enrolled!

“No one is there”

How often does this type of thing happen in your marriage? One of you is talking, but “no one is there” on the other end of the conversation.

I’ve concluded that, for most of us, effective listening is not as easy as talking.

We all know from experience that talking can get us in trouble in our marriages. But attentive listening encourages and communicates that you value one another and are connecting with the love of your life.

The Scriptures remind and implore us, “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Those are some of the most important words you will ever hear for improving your marriage. Because usually we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger!

If you can become a better listener, you will experience less tension in your marriage. And with the conflict in Europe we all have enough tension in our lives right now … our marriages don’t need to be the launch point of the next war. We need to keep and preserve the peace.

Did you take a communications or speech course in high school or college? That course most likely taught you the basics of public speaking. The problem is, most of us have had little training in knowing how to listen. We know how to debate, argue, and win our points, but we are neophytes at really hearing what someone else is saying.

As a result, poor listening habits show up in several forms:

Bad habit #1: Pseudolistening. The husband is often guilty here. After a long day, he comes home with his mind still whirling from events at work. Over dinner, his wife comments, “Did you know Janelle has a new job?”


“She will be moving to Florida next week.”


“She’s going there to rob banks.”