Capiche? In 1940s slang, the word capiche derived from the Italian word capisci, meaning, “Do you understand?”

Many couples come to my office and exclaim, “We just don’t communicate!” I suspect what my troubled clients really mean is that they are failing to understand. It is possible to hear the words and yet entirely miss the heart.

The Bible states in James 1:19 for us to be, “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This is a very intentional process that is especially helpful with emotionally charged areas in marriage, such as, parenting, sex, finances, in-laws, and other hot topics.

Let’s focus solely on being “quick to listen.” I am convinced that skillful listening has the power to turn around marriages that are really hurting.

Most people consider themselves to be pretty good listeners. However, hearing comes naturally and is effortless, but listening takes focus and practice. Active listening is more than just hearing your spouse’s words. Active listening pursues your spouse’s heart; it gives your spouse the gift of empathy.

Many couples have some experience with the “speaker-listener technique” often taught in seminars, counseling sessions, or marriage retreats. The concept is simple. First, the speaker follows the Speaker Guidelines:

• Describe the stressful situation and express how you felt. Keep your statements brief, within 3 to 5 sentences.

• Use “I” statements to maintain ownership of your experience.

• Then, give the listener the opportunity to reflect back to you what they heard.

As the listener you have one goal—to relay back what was said and convince the speaker that you heard them correctly using the Listener Guidelines:

• Make eye contact as you reflect what you heard back to the speaker.

• Do not agree, disagree, debate or negotiate—just relay back what you heard.

• Focus on the emotion words, such as “embarrassed,” “angry,” “lonely,” and “afraid.” Recognize what your spouse felt in the situation.

• Feel free to ask questions to get clarification.

• Watch the speaker for nonverbal cues that indicate you heard correctly, especially head nodding and eye contact.

How do you know when you’ve achieved empathy and true understanding? When you can tell your spouse’s story from your spouse’s perspective! That’s when you capiche, and your spouse feels heard, understood, honored, loved, and respected.

You can do this!