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A participant from our last course said:
"I continue to be more & more mindful each & every day of the insights & suggestions you offered. It will all definitely stay with me & be a part of how I relate & communicate with my beloved. My big Gratitude for all that you both share so wisely & eloquently!" Beverly
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The Importance of Learning How to Truly Listen in Your Relationships

Two men listening to each other

PHIL: Listening. We think that if we hear all the words, we are listening, but what happens is that the words fire off all kinds of thoughts in our head – responses, word associations, old feelings – and this can happen with every phrase, so it is worse than trying to follow a conversation in a noisy restaurant. To truly listen to someone, we have to still that voice and pay attention to the person and what they are saying. They don’t just say it with words; they say it with tone of voice, hunch of shoulder, flurries of feelings, pauses to reach inside. We need to pay attention to the whole message.

This message is also experienced directly in our body. We have so-called mirror neurons that respond when the same neurons in another person fire. These might be actions, facial expressions or pain responses. When another person is speaking, our mirror neurons are reacting to the speaker’s feelings, and so to listen fully, we must be aware of what our body is hearing, too.

Easier said than done. Even if we don’t interrupt, we’re likely to be preparing a response. It might be showing understanding by describing our own experience. It might be trying to put their tale in proportion by saying we’ve had a much worse experience. It might be trying to boost our self-image: “That reminds me of when I was in Italy…”

The way to avoid these is to remember that it’s not about us, it’s about them. By paying full attention to what they are saying, we can remove focus from ourselves and in this way, hear more clearly what they are communicating. What also happens is that they feel fully heard. They can read our body language, too; we’re not playing with our phone as if it were rosary beads or glancing around the restaurant at those other conversations. Fully listening to another is a great gift.

MAUDE: Learning how to listen to others is one of the most important components of connecting, and a primary part of all relationships. You would think that everyone would learn to do that as they grow. And yet, there is often so much going on in the mind of the listener that it fairly drowns out any chance of truly hearing what the other is saying.

To have peaceful loving relationships you must learn to listen and to do so with intention. This involves learning to still the clamor of your own thoughts and to be able to put yourself aside, bringing an open heart and mind to embrace the sharing you are being offered.

Listen with intention to hear the other person, to learn about them, to be there for them to feel heard, to gain understanding, to find mutuality. This precludes preconceptions, judgments, or making it about you. That is often easier said then done, as learning how to listen is rarely taught. When you set those intentions and put the goal of peace and loving exchanges foremost, it will transform your relationships.

Last week in our blog we wrote “Be loving today – you can be right tomorrow.” One reader commented, “Thanks, for that reminder: Listening with love preceding being right. And relinquishing the ‘being right’ stance at the START of listening, surprised me into hearing my own immediate expectations of the other person.”

Going into a conversation with an open heart without the desire to win or be right changes the whole dynamic. It allows an open ended exchange without a preconceived outcome. It pulls the whole experience into the present where you can hear what is being said and be a loving presence for the other.

“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?” Thich Nhat Hanh

When listening with full loving presence, you are not waiting to speak, nor are you formulating a response. You are not there to fix the person, tell your own stories of how you’ve had similar experiences, or offer solutions. That may be another part of the conversation, but it has no place in active listening. When listening, pay attention to all of the communication. Look at the person; what is their body saying, their tone of voice, their gestures and facial expressions?

For the person sharing, it is profoundly powerful to be truly listened to, and when being listened to in this manner, you can often hear yourself much better as well. Feeling heard creates a sense of peace within that is a true balm to the spirit. As we grow and share together, let’s learn to listen and hear each other. Start by setting this intention and move toward practicing it as often as possible. This is one of the ways we can spread peace one relationship at a time.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Statues by George Segal in Christopher Park, across from Stonewall Inn, NYC.

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This online course breaks down the details of how you can achieve this in three separate sessions taught over two days. Each session is about 90 minutes long.

Day 1: Saturday July 9, 2022

  • Session 1: 9:00 AM PDT looks at Core Values and how they are fundamental to your relationship
  • Session 2: 2:00 PM PDT explores individuality and total acceptance.

Day 2: Sunday July 10, 2022

  • Session 3: 2:00 PM PDT is their process for creating mutual solutions rather than fighting and arguing.

Follow-up meeting:

  • Saturday July 16, 2022 at 9 AM PDT for an hour.
Register at Eventbrite.

Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we wrote abut the importance of learning how to truly listen in your relationships. Here are some other writers with their takes on this under-discussed subject.

Deep Listening in Personal Relationships “For the most part, in all relationships there’s one person who speaks and one who listens. But is the listener really listening? Many people think they’re better listeners than studies show they actually are. The goal of deep listening is to acquire information, understand a person or a situation, and experience pleasure. Active listening is about making a conscious decision to hear what people are saying. It’s about being completely focused on others—their words and their messages—without being distracted.”

How Does Listening Affect Relationships “Have you ever talked to another person, and become so distracted by the quivering of their lips? I’m not talking, sad quivering, I’m talking, the quivering where you know they are dying! absolutely dying! to say something the moment you stop talking. Or they actually do, and start by giving you an answer when you weren’t asking a question. We all know that person, people, and at the end of those conversations, walk away feeling unheard and frustrated. Like the big thought bubble is completely empty because truly, there was no exchange of information. You were talking, but no one was really listening, and because no one was really listening, you disengaged. At every stage of development, there is a common thread, we are asked, 'are you listening,' told to 'please listen,' and demanded, 'why aren’t you listening to me?' The golden thread is listening, but no one truly defines what that means, or how to do it.”

How to be a good listener “Really listening to each other can be hard sometimes. Life places so many demands on us, and we always seem to have a million things competing for our attention, including technology, work, hobbies, friends and kids. Interestingly, really listening when we’re speaking with our partner can seem particularly difficult. Emotions run high because we care about them so much, and we tend to only half listen while we
formulate our response in our heads — often in the form of a rebuttal if the topic is difficult.”

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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