You Honor Your Relationships When You Listen With Your Heart
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Since early in the pandemic, we have been participating in a weekly zoom gathering where there are live talks on a huge variety of uplifting topics. Occasionally we watch an inspiring video. This week we watched one from Oprah Winfrey that engendered a lot of thoughtful discussion.
She spoke about being of service and knowing yourself, but the part that struck us so strongly was where she talked about the thousands of interviews she has done and that afterwards, everybody asked “How was that? How did I do?”. Even famous people like Barack Obama, George Bush and Beyoncé asked this. She concluded that everybody wants to be seen, heard, and know that they make a contribution. Once she realized this, she started listening with it in mind.
Listening to each other is one of the most critical aspects of successful harmonious relationships. The concept of listening while asking yourself “What is this person sharing of importance and value to them – what is it they want to contribute?” and “How can I best let them know that I see them and hear them?” sets a very different style of listening where you are truly involved with the other person and their communication.
When people are in relationships over a longer time, they often stop paying full attention to each other and are not really present with the other person. They think that they know what the other person is going to say and how they are going to react. When their partner does not feel seen or heard, they are likely to react negatively one way or the other by repeating the message more loudly, getting angry, or withdrawing.Everybody wants to be seen, heard, and know that they make a contribution #quote #relationships Click To Tweet
Listening is an acquired skill. It’s difficult. Maybe we’re not paying attention because we’re thinking about our dental appointment or wondering what will happen in the next episode of a Netflix series. Perhaps we’ve heard too often their reminiscence or their complaints about their ex. Perhaps it reminds us of something in our life and we interject that story to show empathy or to top their account. Perhaps we know they are not seeing something or could tackle the problem differently so we try to help them. Perhaps we’re morally offended by what they say and want to steer them right.
We all want to be seen for who we are and what we do. The best thing you can do for a person is to be with them and listen. When you are truly present, you are listening not just to the words, but to what is underneath the words, to what is really being said or asked for.
Listening in this way comes more naturally when you practice acceptance of each other in your relationships; it leads more naturally to being present and creates an undefended state that encourages listening and acknowledging one another. (We wrote about acceptance recently here and here.) When you know you are not going to be attacked or judged, you feel at ease with each other. You can listen without being busy with yourself.
When you listen without inserting yourself into the telling, the other person feels heard, seen and comforted. More than that, there is the possibility of a transcendent event. It is rare, but we have both experienced it with each other and with friends. Typically it occurs after hours of conversation, after the news and the niceties, when a form of mind meld takes place. It is generally only obvious in retrospect because the you that would notice has stepped aside. The simple way to describe this is as being completely present, which is very much a non-verbal thing. It is paying attention with all of your senses.
Fully listening without judgment benefits all relationships, close or casual. For us, we recognize that listening is part of the connection we have. Let’s all support each other by listening and acknowledging one another.
Photo credit: Dex by Maude Mayes
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