This week’s approach continues to build on the “reflecting” technique, but focuses entirely on precisely what the speaker is feeling. This is referred to as “Emotional Labeling”. Using this approach, the listener puts perceived feelings into words in an effort to help the speaker to see things in light of their subjective emotions. This is done to provide the emotional distance the speaker may need in order to see the subject more objectively.
To help the person who is speaking begin to achieve some distance, use “door openers” — for example, “I’m sensing that you’re feeling frustrated. . . worried. . . anxious. . .”. It’s important to tune into the emotions being shown by the speaker without over-using verbal feedback, since the cornerstone of “active listening" is just that – listening. Not talking. It is a delicate balance, but it’s very important to identify the driving emotions being expressed in order to properly gather more information while being sensitive to how your spouse is feeling at that moment.
The importance of acknowledging the emotions of the speaker cannot be overstated. It is critical in order to show you are respecting what they are going through emotionally and how the information being communicated to you impacts them on a personal level. Identifying the person’s emotions validates what they are feeling instead of minimizing it. Only once this is accomplished will it be possible to move from pure emotions toward a more rational approach, restoring the balance needed to arrive at sound resolutions and conclusions.
Also remember, it isn’t required that you agree with or even understand why they are having certain emotional reactions, just acknowledging them is sufficient to validate your spouse and demonstrate you are supportive and “on their side”. Demonstrating empathy in this way allows us to act genuinely, and with sincerity, both of which are critical to supporting and loving our spouse.