Peter opened the door for his fiancée as they entered the pastor's office. This was their 6th premarital counseling session, and he was wondering if they were really worth the time and energy involved. After all, their parents never went through this kind of thing, and both sets of parents had been successfully married for decades. The couple settled into the comfortable chairs and waited for Pastor Gary to start.
"Well, as you know, we've spent several sessions discussing the normal areas of potential problems that occur when marriage happens. We've discussed money, where to live, and how many kids to have and how to raise them. Today we are going to discuss an area of major importance: communication. Let’s start by just seeing what kind of listening skills we have."
Peter mentally rolled his eyes, adding up all the communication classes he had been through at work.
Pastor Gary continued speaking. "I want Lori to talk to me, while Peter listens to us talk. I'll ask Lori a few conversational questions, just to get the ball rolling. Then Peter will take his turn. Ok, Lori, tell me how your day went today. Did anything interesting happen at the office?"
Lori took a few seconds, and then started talking. She got rather excited as she talked about the changes that were happening due to a new supervisor coming in, and she talked about plans for an upcoming lunch they were planning for the woman who was leaving. Lori droned on about several things in the next few minutes as Peter listened. Since Peter knew all about the plans, he allowed his mind to wander, as he mulled over events that were taking place at his own office. This is really a dumb exercise. I've heard all this several times, I really don't see what it's going to accomplish.
Pastor Gary asked Lori a couple more questions, then, abruptly, he held up his hand to silence Lori. "Peter, now it's your turn."
Okay, so now I talk, alright, I can do this.
"Peter, all I want you to do is repeat back to me everything Lori has said in the last few minutes. Do you think you can do that?"
What? Gulp. "Everything Lori has said?"
"Yes, just repeat it back to me, in your own words. I want to know what you heard."
"Uh, well, she was talking about the good-bye party and, uh, who's bringing what and how they're going to decorate. They want to do a tropical island theme because that's where she's retiring to. And Lori was talking about all the questions everybody has about any upcoming changes." Peter sat back, wearing a rather smug look. That was easy, maybe it was too easy?
He realized that Lori and the Pastor were still looking at him with anticipation. What else had Lori talked about? He desperately tried to run it back over in his mind, but he couldn’t remember anything more. What else could there be?
Peter forced a chuckle, "I've been hearing Lori plan this party for a couple of weeks now, so I guess I pretty much know what's in the works."
"Then you know that the plans were suddenly changed today? And that they had to completely revamp the whole theme?" Pastor Gary sat back, hands folded together.
"Uh, well, I, uh, I guess I missed that part."
Lori leaned forward, "So did you hear me say I’m going to be promoted to be the assistant to the new supervisor? I didn't get to tell you earlier. I planned to tell you after our session, but it sort of slipped out while I was talking about everything."
Peter jumped up and attempted to give Lori a hug, "That's great! We should celebrate with a dinner out."
"How could you not have heard it? Or the discussion of the changes we have to make in our plans? Weren't you listening at all? Why do you tune me out? I wanted our marriage to be different than our parents; I thought we might actually be able to talk about things, instead of each of us just doing our own thing."
Pastor Gary quickly jumped in, “That’s why we are practicing listening. We need to learn to really listen. You need to understand what the other person is really saying. Lori, why don’t you take a turn listening now.”
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