Do you wish you had a better relationship with your spouse? Are you unsure what to do to increase communication and emotional intimacy?

Recently, Christian Godefroy published a story titled “The Dancing Cow” in a newsletter I receive. When I read the story, I immediately thought about how the main point is about married couples.

Here is the story:

Michal and Kental started arguing about which of them wrote the best music.

“My music is better,” Michal said. “My melodies bring tears to the eyes of all women.”

“No, my music is better,” Kental disagreed. “My scores are more enchanting than anything else! Your music could not touch a cow, my poor Michal.”

“And what do you think? That your scores would make it dance?”

The fight was in full swing when a farmer walked by and brought the cow home from the field. The two musicians saw an opportunity to put their theories to the test.

“Hello,” they said. “Would you mind if we played something for your cow?”

“Well, if it brings you pleasure, why not? She’s seen a lot worse in her day, I can tell you.”

Michal warmed his hands, tuned the balalaika (a stringed instrument of Russian origin) and played the most beautiful melody ever heard by a cow. But without

result – the beast ruminated without touching an ear.

Annoyed, Michal handed the instrument to his compatriot, who played a lively score with the same result – no reaction from the cow.

“It’s a lost cause,” cried Michal. “Your cow doesn’t have a musical ear.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” replied the farmer. “If you would lend me your instrument for a moment, I could play something for her.”

Interested, Michal and Kental handed over the balalaika. The farmer did his best to imitate the buzzing of the flies and the lowing of small cows. The cow raised its ears, began to whip its tail from side to side, and moved closer to the farmer as if to hear the music better.

The main point of the story according to Godefrey is that “if you have trouble communicating with people, you, like Michal and Kental, might not play the music they’re used to hearing.” This is truly profound wisdom!

In other words, you have to start where the other person is, using that person’s frame of reference. You cannot start where you are if the other person is not in the same place and does not have the same background and experience. First, you need to enter the other person’s world and start with what is familiar to him (or her) to get his attention.

In the story, the cow might have learned over time to respond to other music in addition to the sounds the farmer first played. But at first the cow didn’t react at all until the farmer played the sounds that the cow could relate to and was familiar with – the buzzing of flies and the lowing of small cows.

So the starting point for getting the cow’s attention and commitment was to start making the sounds the cow was most familiar with. The cow could relate to these sounds and reacted with attention and movement.

Are you wondering how this applies to building better relationships with your spouse? Here’s everything you need to remember to apply the moral of the dancing cow story: To start building better communication and relationships with your spouse, start in his (or her) world first – enter his world and start right where he is now.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Temporarily lower your own needs and what you want from your spouse. Start conversations where you ask your spouse about his (or her) day, his work and his activities, showing interest and empathy.

For example, you might say, “It must be frustrating to have a boss who changes his mind so much” or “You must have been disappointed when it rained and you couldn’t go for your usual jog after work today.” See if he will open up and talk about his frustrations, disappointments and dreams.

2. Make a concerted effort to understand your spouse’s mindset and feelings about the things going on in her (or his) world. If she has different opinions, try to understand why and how they differ. Pretend you are on a debate team and need to understand her point of view in order to present it to others and defend it.

If her taste in music is different from yours, for example, be open to learning more about why she likes the music she does. Look for some common denominators between your tastes and hers that you can build on.

Even if you never change your mind about your likes and dislikes, your spouse will appreciate the fact that you were motivated enough to want to understand her world better.

3. Go out of your way to show that you care about your spouse and that you appreciate him (or her). Most spouses take their partner for granted in many ways and stop expressing gratitude and saying “Thank you”.

Go out of your way to notice the big and small things your partner does that you appreciate. Say a verbal “Thank you” or buy a special card and express your feelings in writing. Sincere gratitude can foster rapport.

4. When talking to your spouse, try to match your breathing and speaking rates to his (or hers). It’s harder to build relationships when your spouse is relaxed and laid back at the moment and you’re upset and upset.

Without being obvious and making it look like you’re mimicking your partner, slow down and adjust your breathing rate to more closely match your partner’s. Adjust your speaking rate to match his and try to be in sync with his energy of the moment.

You can also try sitting or standing in the same position as your spouse, without making it obvious that you are copying his behavior. In addition, you can adjust your facial expression and movements with his.

Many good communicators do these things unconsciously because they help build relationships and provide a good starting point for better communication. The key to doing this successfully is to start where your spouse is at the moment in terms of energy level and emotions.

5. Slowly encourage your partner to expand his (or her) world. For example, after listening to your spouse’s description of what happened at work, if he doesn’t ask about your day, summarize what happened in two or three short sentences before ending the conversation.

If your spouse spends every evening in front of the television set, ask her (or him) to choose five minutes when the television can be turned off and you can take a “cuddle break.” Start small and build up to a longer period.

Offer to give your spouse a foot, shoulder or back massage. Get really into the experience as you ease your partner’s worries about the day with your healing touch. Let your partner know how much you enjoy being able to do this for her (or him), and see if she offers to reciprocate either then or later.

You will be more likely to succeed in building relationships if your partner feels that you are genuinely interested in what is happening to him (or her), that you appreciate him, that you care about him, that you value him, and that you want to spend time with him.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, remember the story of the dancing cow and change the “tune” you’re playing. Instead of trying to start where you want things to be, start in your partner’s frame of reference and slowly move in the direction you want to go.

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