False Listening: What Happens When Couples Don't Listen with The Intention to Understand...

False Listening: What Happens When Couples Don't Listen with The Intention to Understand...

When you listen to a bird singing, all your attention zeroes in on the melodic sound coming from the bird.

When you’re listening to your favorite song your attention is often completely immersed in the song. 

When you’re having a latte outside your coffee shop and out of nowhere you hear the shrill sound of an ambulance siren, what do you want to do when you hear it blaring?

You want to not-hear it. 

Hearing vs. Listening 

Your partner or spouse is trying to handle a misunderstanding they feel has occurred between the two of you.

You’re listening but they begin to tell you something you disagree with or you’d rather not-hear

At that exact moment you begin to check out. 

You try to not-hear. 

And at the point where your partner senses you are not listening to them (because when you check out it is perceptible) they ask:

Are you listening to me?!”

You reply:

“Yes, I’m listening to you.”

Not so fast Bronco Billy.

The truth is you hear them. 

But you are not listening with the intention to understand them. 

The truth is at the exact moment where you hear something that you disagree with or do not like, you will often do what you do with the ambulance siren. 

You will wittingly or unwittingly try to not-hear that thing you find unpalatable coming out of your partner's mouth. 

You may be hearing every word they’re saying, but you’re not listening with the intention to understand. 

Slow Boil:

What happens next is what I refer to as the slow boil. 

You are so incensed by what you just heard from your partner that your disagreement is building to a slow boil inside you.

And while you are on a slow boil you look at your partner and nod like you are listening.  

This is false listening. 

Your partner continues communicating their upset and now you are smoldering. 

You have maybe a sixteenth of your attention on what they’re saying, and you are now actually out of present time. 

While pretending to listen to them, you are creating your reply in your own mind complete with strategic hand grenade zingers you can’t wait to toss in their face. 

Finally, your partner is done. They look at you and say, “Did you understand anything I just said?”

Your reply? 

“Yes, I understood what you just said. But let me tell you something...”

Hold your horses...


What evolves out of not listening with the intention to understand, is a cocktail of misunderstanding, misemotion, and make-wrong. 

Freeze Frame: 

The above is a common scenario with most couples I coach. 

They each tell me in their own way that they have a communication problem in their marriage or relationship. 


Okay...well...maybe that’s a bit extreme. 

I got your attention though, right

You communicated just fine when you first met. You talked and laughed into the wee hours in the morning. Sex was never an issue except was her bra strap in the front or the back. 

And you listened to each other talk about work and family and ideas about your future. 

So, what changed?

Your willingness to listen with the intention to understand. 

And that’s not all. 

Because your attention is now often glued to your smartphone your mind has been conditioned to scroll off with the swipe of your finger those things you don’t like or don’t have time for.

Because listening requires one hundred percent of your attention when listening to your partner, couples who get infuriated mid conversation, check out. 

You scroll off your conversation with your partner. 

And then because it’s just plain-ass rude to walk away, you stay in the conversation and pretend you are being there and listening to your partner.

No. I’m sorry. 

You’re also being a false partner. 

And you know what’s really alienesque?

Both of you do it. 

And both of you hate that the other does it to you while rarely if ever either of you admit doing it!

The Solution:

1. Shut up and listen with the intention to understand. 

2. Stop trying to “be right.”

3. Repeat. 

Understanding occurs when your partner feels understood. 

That is your hat. 

If your partner does not feel like you understood them, if they feel you don’t “get them,” if they are at dis-ease when they are done communicating, you need to do better at 1 & 2 above. 

When you listen to Andrea Bocelli, you understand. 

When you listen to an enlightening TED talk, you understand 

That feeling you get?

That’s how your partner should feel.

Listen with the intention to understand and I promise you it will be music to your ears as well as your partners. 

I offer a free online personality test that shows exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are in your relationships.

This test is very much like an x-ray that your doctor takes in order to see where the human eye cannot. Your doctor can then advise you based on what’s really going on.

The test I offer is very much the same. It is uncannily accurate in showing your strengths and areas where you’re having difficulties. 

This test is free to take online and I offer an evaluation of your results over the phone, no charge. 

Just click on the link below.

Personality Test

If you would like to know more about me, visit my website at:


Brian McKenzie Apr 6, 2020 · #16

#15 Never put yourself in isolation with a Warden - that can make your prison sentence more cruel - choose Freedom.

NATHAN HIUHU Apr 2, 2020 · #15


Brian McKenzie Mar 22, 2020 · #14

I switch off when every conversation is a blame game and temper tantrum
I swiped OFF - kicked her out of my life. Funny, I am now so often RIGHT.
After 10 years gone - she sent me a note last week. I deleted it - UNREAD
I am done hearing / listening / caring in her direction.
Now that I know the game - I Swipe Off at first instance. And enjoy hours / days / months of peace - and quiet.

+1 +1
Steve Patterson Mar 19, 2020 · #13

Too often we listen to be quick to reply not to understand.

+2 +2
Claire L Cardwell Mar 9, 2020 · #11

#10 Thank you @Dave Worthen!

Dave Worthen Mar 9, 2020 · #10

#8 Hello again @Claire L Cardwell! I wanted to take a moment and thank you for sharing my writing. It's an amazing experience for a writer to find someone out of the blue not only comment on one's writing, but share it as well. I have lifelong friends who don't even read my writing let alone share! But I understand this world of "swipe" vs. read these days. Even though we have not met I feel a kinship with you. I looked over your FB profile and you do a lot of sharing. Good on you. I admire this. Thank you again.

+1 +1
Dave Worthen Mar 9, 2020 · #9

#7 Hi @Claire L Cardwell! Thanks for chiming in! beBee.com should make it easy to delete it I would think!