Reflective listening is an important part of communication, especially when spouses are discussing emotions or conflict. If you are craving positive changes in your communication, start the journey by putting effort into becoming a better listener. This type of listening requires two levels of skill: intentional listening combined with intentional responding.
First, genuinely hear what the other person is saying through verbal and nonverbal exchange. A person’s words, tones, and volumes can say a lot, but that same person is simultaneously sending messages through body language, eye contact, and gestures. Remember, a good listener does not interrupt the speaker.
Second, choose to respond in ways which communicate that you have respectfully listened to the speaker. Those responses start as soon as the speaker begins; you show that you are listening by looking at the speaker and positioning your body so that the speaker has your full attention. You can also respond with words to show that you have heard the speaker.
Try using paraphrasing statements. You’ll be acting as a mirror, reflecting back what you have heard by using statements like:
Try to learn more by using clarifying statements/questions such as:
The key is this: wait to share your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences until it is your turn. Once the first speaker feels heard and understood, that person will be more likely to hear what you are about to say. Couples counseling is a great place to practice reflective listening with your spouse because you’ve got someone who can objectively walk you through the process.
At home, start by practicing these skills during less intense moments (such as when your spouse is telling you about a trip to the grocery store), then practice during moderately emotional moments (when your spouse is telling you about a stressful experience. Ultimately, reflective listening is one important part of healthy conflict resolution with your spouse. Here are some extra things to keep in mind:
Last night, we had our family portrait taken for our church’s directory. As we sat on the stools in our color-coordinated attire, surrounded by photos of other families in their sweaters and suit coats, I realized how deceiving this directory might be. I think it can be all too easy to hide real-life issues behind things like smiles and glamour shots, our talents and knowing the words to worship songs. I am grateful for my pastors, who are not afraid to talk about abuse, anxiety, sex trafficking, and other real-life issues from the pulpit, but I know there is room for more of these conversations in every congregation. We can spend so much time pouring energy into looking the way a church directory family should look that we miss out on checking our hearts and keeping them oriented toward Him. I’m not suggesting that we scrap church directories (they are very helpful for learning about the congregation, learning names of new folks, and finding out where to deliver casseroles). But I do feel like there should be a disclaimer– “Every single family pictured in this directory is imperfect. They might yell at each other, drive aggressively, deal with an illness you can’t see, or have a struggle you don’t know about. Each person pictured needs the same amount of Jesus and His grace.”
And then I was reminded that I’m not alone in that desire for authenticity.
Earlier this month, North Park Church graciously invited me to serve as the keynote speaker for their 2015 Women’s Retreat. I treasured spending part of the day with the scores of women who are eager to experience trust, transparency, and truth. The topic they had planned was “Staying Safe in the Storms of Life,” and I love how beautifully they started some mental health conversations, especially in their small groups. I’d like to highlight a few things that I think we can all take away from their retreat:
So what’s next? I hope to see similar conversations pop up in churches all over our area: women’s retreats, men’s retreats, youth retreats, Sunday schools, sermons, seminars. My goal is that we start these conversations and that they never end. May our churches be so filled with love and grace that people do not feel shunned or marginalized for not being “normal” enough. Perhaps we will create mental health prayer walls and ministries to meet the emotional needs of our congregations. Ultimately, I hope people will receive the quality mental health care they need and deserve without fear of stigma or rejection, especially in their churches.
If you would like to meet with me and discuss how I could bring similar discussions to your church, you can start now by contacting me here.
I craved a white Christmas, but the snow waited until January to arrive (which is par for the course in Pittsburgh). Now that it’s here, I am reminded of how good snow is for my soul. It brings brightness to the Western PA winters, and gives the ground time to rest and prepare for spring. Although it is easy to get frustrated when I’m shoveling or trying to get through a snowy commute, I try to intentionally remind myself of a few things. I hope they’ll bless you, too!
1- Our Creator is creative. Have you looked a snowflake lately? I mean, really looked? The unique, intricate details of snowflakes remind me that we have a lot of individuality to celebrate. You are different from your spouse, siblings, coworkers, and friends. Instead of allowing our differences to divide us, we can choose to allow them to point us to the Creator of the variations.
2- There’s even more beauty when we stick together. As wonderful as it can be to appreciate individual snowflakes, something beautiful happens as they’re quilted together to create a fresh blanket of snow. Before it is touched by any creature, it is smooth, sparkly, and peaceful. It insulates and holds water for the dormant plants. The snowy blankets remind me that unity serves a purpose; there are things we can only accomplish when we are unified. Bonding and togetherness are crucial, even on the coldest days.
3- We are forgiven. Isaiah 1:18 is a reminder that, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Jesus paid the price. (A great book to help you dive deeper into this wool metaphor–and many others–is Margaret Feinberg’s Scouting the Divine.)
4- It is important to make time to have fun. Warm up with a hot beverage. Build a snowman. Take a nap. Play a game. Cuddle with a pet. Winter can be a very difficult season, so it’s important to care for yourself in little ways. Aromatherapy and happy lights can be good additions to your routine, and having a trusted counselor can help you watch out for depression. (Of course, you should consult with your doctor to find out what works best for you.)
5- Let’s love our neighbors (and be loved by them). Snow, ice, cold, and darkness present countless opportunities each winter for us to love and be loved. Just like each snowflake has a unique beauty to offer, so do we. How can you love? Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk? Donate a meal? Share a hug? Offer a prayer? Love your neighbor. And what do you need? A warm place to stay? An encouraging word? Transportation? Allow someone to love you.
As frustrating as Winter can be, let’s choose to see it as a season of opportunity.
Last month, I highlighted some of Pittsburgh’s crisis resources. I wanted to build onto that list, adding some disability resources for our area. Below you’ll find a list of some of the organizations who offer services available to Western Pennsylvanians. For more information, contact them using the information listed below each organization.
Phone: Dial 2-1-1
This is a great place to get started since it offers assistance for things like housing, utilities, and food. There are also great resources for military members, veterans, and their families.
Address: 650 Smithfield Street, Centre City Tower, Suite 440, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: (412) 562-5353
This transportation service is for individuals who are aging and/or dealing with disabilities.
Three Rivers Center for Independent Living (TRICIL)
Address: 900 Rebecca Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15221
Phone: (412) 371-7700
TRICIL offers information and referrals, peer support, transition services, independent living skills training, and advocacy. They also have a gym for people with disabilities as well as assistive technology and equipment.
UCP/CLASS (United Cerebral Palsy/ Community Living and Support Services)
Address: 1400 S. Braddock Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15218
Phone: (412) 683-7100 or (888) 954-2424
This organization offers attendant care services, community partners, vocational and residential support services, information and referrals, PA Assistant Technology Foundation, and a community services center.
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Address: 300 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: (412) 392-4950
This resource helps people with disabilities prepare for, find, and maintain employment. Services include: diagnostic services, vocational evaluation, counseling, training, assistive technology, placement assistance, and support services.
Working Order Program/ Volunteers of America
Address: 1650 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15215
Phone: (412) 782-5344
This organization serves many purposes, particularly with transportation and employment.
Disability Options Network (DON)
Address: 1929 East Washington Street, Suite 1, New Castle, PA 16101
This organization serves western Pennsylvanians in a variety of ways including advocacy, support, referrals, and skills training.
Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living (TRIPIL)
Address: 69 East Beau Street, Washington, PA 15301
Phone: (724) 223-0160
This organization serves Washington, Greene, and Fayette Counties in a variety of ways including advocacy, community outreach, and an internet cafe.
Disability Rights Network
Address:429 Fourth Avenue, Suite 701, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: (412) 391-5225
This is a statewide organization aiming to protect and advocate for all Pennsylvanians with disabilities.
Casey Ball Support Services
Address: 7550 Saltsburg Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235
Phone: (412) 793-0200; (844) 793-0200
This organization serves eligible adults with trained service coordinators, assessments, support plans, monitoring, and other services.
Address: 69 East Beau Street. Washington, PA, 15301
Phone: (724) 223-5115
This organization provides services to modify current homes and delivery new homes for eligible persons with disabilities.
Uniquely the Same
Address: 217 Rush Valley Road, Monroeville, PA 15146
Phone: (412) 701-4432
This organization is, “assisting those affected by disability or economic disadvantage in order to improve the quality of life for all.”
Can you think of other organizations and services that belong on this list?
Leave their information in a comment below!