Digestive Listening

This worksheet reviews the principles for being a first rate listener. It will give you some practice Digesting Aloud what your spouse says.

You’ll also learn to go all the way by linking what you heard to what you want to say using Yes, And.

Listen to Learn and Digesting Aloud

Digesting means that you chew on the data you were given, mulling it over aloud and adding your thoughts on the subject. When you digest what you’ve heard, your job is always to find what’s right in what your partner said, what makes sense, and how you’ve experienced the same thing. Beware of arguing against or pointing out problems. These are not skilled ways of listening.

Accepting a variety of perspectives is a hallmark of maturity. To see the world from your spouse’s point of view doesn’t mean that your spouse’s view needs to replace your own. It just means that you are augmenting what you see by also taking in your spouse’s understandings.

    Dan: If you take evening classes, I’m worried we won’t have time together.
  • Jane: (digesting aloud) It’s important to me, too, that we continue to keep our relationship close by having time together, especially in the evenings. I treasure watching sunsets with you, and even cleaning up the kitchen together.

Jane picks up what Dan has said, and mulls it over aloud. She does more than just parrot back what she’s heard. She thinks about what Dan has said, finds where she is on the same page, and voices these thoughts aloud. This digestive listening gives Jane a chance to absorb the importance of what Dan has said and at the same time clarifies to Dan that his wife is taking his concerns seriously.

Your turn...

Help Jane and Dan digest aloud the following sentences.
Hint: Start your response with the word yes to launch thinking about what makes sense to you in what you have just heard.

  • Jane: I can’t figure out how we can manage a bigger mortgage payment if we buy a new house.
  • Dan: Yes, ____________

  • Dan: Even though we had planned to have time together tonight, I am really tired.
  • Jane: Yes, _____________

  • Jane: It feels like we’re eating the same old things every night for dinner.
  • Dan: Yes, _______________

  • Jane: Awkward as this is, it’s been bothering me that our sex life has been so blah lately.
  • Dan: Yes, _________

  • Dan: I feel like I do 90% of the housework and that’s not fair.
  • Jane: Yes, ____________

Skill 2: Listen and Link with “Yes, and”

Successful marriage rests on keeping both of you important. Digestive listening with yes, followed by your own perspective linked with and, validates that both of you have contributions to add.

  • Polly: Taking airplanes is foolish given how many crashes there have been lately.
  • Ezra: Yes, there have been a frightening number of recent air disasters, and at the same time, if we don’t fly we would miss my sister’s wedding, which I would feel terrible about.

The example above has actually four important parts.

  • 1. Start with the word yes.
  • 2. Digest aloud what you have heard, finding something to agree with in the provocative statement.
  • 3. Add the word and, leaning on it to emphasize that you are adding rather than subtracting information.
  • 4. Then add your perspective.

Your turn...

Here re some intentionally provocative statements. See how good your listening skills are! Fill in the blanks below with the four steps of the yes, and formula: (1) say yes, (2) digest what you can agree with, (3) add and, the (4) add your own views.

You’re Ready!

Now it's your turn to try it out in real life! How many times in the next few days can you apply these skills?

  • Listen to learn instead of to criticize, reject or debate.
  • Digest aloud so your spouse knows that you have taken in.
  • Use Yes... And when you want to listen AND add your own, perhaps different, perspective.

More Practice

Play each statement. Then type in how you might Digest Aloud. It's fair game to creatively fill in the back story!


Ugg this bathroom is disgusting. It drives me crazy when you let it get this dirty.

I don't care what you beleive, good parents never yell at their kids.

I can't see how we are ever going to be able to save up enough to help the kids with college.

Hey honey, I was really really bumed last night when I looked around after cleaning up and realized that you had gone to bed without me.

I can't believe that movie was rated PG, it just seemed way too scary for kids to watch.

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