Are you familiar with the “active listening” concept?
It’s where you listen to what your spouse says, repeat back what your spouse said in your own words, and then try to show you understand why your spouse feels angry at you or whatever.
In the book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, which is a “myth-busting response to the self-help movement, with tips and tricks to improve your life that come straight from the scientific community,” author Richard Wiseman pretty much dismisses active listening as hooey.
In the 1990s John Gottman (a world renowned expert on marital stability) did an elaborate study on active listening at the University of Washington.
He took 100 newlywed couples and videotaped them as they chatted for 15 minutes about a topic of ongoing disagreement. He followed these couples for six years.
It turns out hardly anyone engaged in active listening and it’s too difficult for most people to perform the “emotional gynmastics” required for active listening. They were shocked to discover that active listening was unrelated to marital bliss.
They went on to study tapes from another study that tracked married couples for 13 years and reached the same conclusions about active listening.
So if active listening doesn’t work, what does?
The Gottman study reveals that people in long term, happy heterosexual relationships exhibit a very particular pattern in times of conflict:
The female usually raises a difficult issue, presents an analysis of the problem, and suggests some possible solutions.
Males who are able to accept some of these ideas, and therefore show a sense of power sharing with their partner, are far more likely to maintain a successful relationship.
In contrast, couples in which the males react by stonewalling, or even showing contempt, are especially likely to break up.
So the Vicki the Biker approach to conflict really is the right one! Woo hoo!