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How to Hear What is Being Shared With You

Two women talkingPhil had a relationship in his 30’s where his partner just wanted to be heard, but instead, he would offer advice. He was so accustomed to being called on to fix things like a broken door-lock that such conversations seemed like another request for help. It took years before he understood what she had been asking for.

Maude is in a zoom group where they read and discuss deep intellectual and spiritual concepts. Most recently, she shared how the previous week’s reading had affected her, how she had sought to put these things into practice in her life, and what she needed to work on. One of the men in the group offered her solutions for what she shared, not just once, but several times in a row. Maude had not been looking for fixing. Solutions were not being sought. Her goal had been twofold: to share her experience and to potentially stimulate others to share theirs.

A dear couple we know texted us that their much-beloved long time cat companion had just died. The wife has been through some difficult health issues recently; this was one more heavy blow, and she was bereft. They texted us that they were out driving and could they come by. We set up chairs outside in front of the house at a distance and we all sat together. Our friend shared her feelings of loss; we listened and offered compassion. We talked a bit of this and that, and eventually she shared that she had really started to go down the rabbit hole and needed to get out of the house. She was clearly feeling better just visiting. We offered no suggestions, just love and compassion.

Moments like these are where the jewels of life are found. There is so much of importance being communicated here. How can we deepen our connection and offer each other what is needed and wanted?

The more we know of ourselves, the more we will understand what we want and need. These times of more isolation have offered an unusual opportunity for self-reflection, and created the time for practices that bring us greater understanding of ourselves.

We can apply the same kind of understanding when verbal intimacy is being offered to us. What is the person looking for in the exchange? By careful listening and loving presence we can be open to the possibilities and learn how to respond to what is being sought.

Maybe they just want to be heard. It can get lonely in our head, and speaking to another is an act of intimacy, of putting yourself out there and being seen.

Perhaps they’re venting. It’s a relief to rant about the driver who cut you off or the relative who has transformed into bridezilla.

Maybe they’re clarifying their thoughts and feelings. It’s a jumble of contradictory ideas and emotions in there, and sorting through them and speaking them aloud is a way to see the situation more clearly.

Or maybe they’re seeking solutions. They can’t quite figure out what to do; they’re looking for another viewpoint or for a hand to pull them out of the pit in which they feel trapped.

They could be sharing to create intimacy, letting you know more about them.

Maybe they’re extending an invitation for you to share as well.

Sometimes it can be fruitful to find a gentle way of asking what is being sought. Often, just stopping, being available, and listening will offer what is needed. Above all, respect their reality and be honored that they have shared it with you.

This pandemic has made us all more aware of how important we all are to each other, and it behooves us to pay attention to these moments of connection in our relationships. Let us stop, listen and be there for each other.

Photo Credit: Phil Mayes

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner

BookshelfThis week's blog discussed how to hear what is being shared with you and the best way to respond. Here are some articles with other ideas on how to do this. 

9 Ways to Be There for a Friend, Without Giving Advice "Some years after my decision to divorce, I thanked my parents for not pressuring me one way or the other on the “stay-or-go” issue. Making that hard decision myself really forced me to grow, I told them. My dad replied, “We knew there would be pain whether you got divorced or didn’t. And we knew you had to choose that pain for yourself.” That was the best advice I ever got—and it wasn’t exactly advice."

How To Give Good Advice (By Giving No Advice At All) "Being understood and accepted is a fundamental element of the human condition and one of the most meaningful ways to feel this is by being listened to. While it might sound simple, properly listening to someone is a real art. What's even harder than giving someone your full attention, is not putting yourself into their situation through unwanted advice. So, how do we provide support for the people in our lives and ensure they are feeling understood and accepted?"

Stop Trying to Fix Things, Just Listen! "Regardless of whether you’re a woman or a man, everyone needs both emotional support and practical help. Neither one is right or wrong, better or worse. The trick is knowing what is needed at any given moment and finding the right balance of listening and helping. Those are the hard things. But it’s possible for couples to find that balance using the skills of insight, mutuality, and emotion regulation."


Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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