It’s amazing how much I am learning as I progress through this study of Love is an Intention: An Interview with Jerry Judd about the Principles and Skills of Loving (published by Friends of Shalom Mountain). I keep finding ways that I can up my game as a Lover. This next skill: Hearing: I listen to what you are saying, is subtly tricky. The pain of not being heard by your Beloved is one of the greatest factors in couples breaking up. We think we are good listeners. But how often are you really listening, versus waiting for your chance to talk? We are often so eager to contribute to the other person, that we jump in with solutions or sympathy, when all they really want is to be heard. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple “I hear you.” The other thing to ponder is, am I really listening to what you are saying? Because we have a tendency to run what people say through our own personal filter, which weighs in with our beliefs about ourselves and our stereotypes of others, and then attributes meaning to what was just said. I find it very effective to either reflect back to the other, “what I heard you just say is. . . is that right?’
Another question to ask yourself about your skill as a listener is: Am I listening to your whole Self with my whole Self? Am I listening to your body language? Am I listening for the feelings behind the words and the needs beneath the words? I find it useful to ask my partner what they want in terms of feedback when they are sharing. This way, I can listen to them in the way they want to be heard. It’s a feminine quality to talk out loud to derive our solutions, and because we are entertained by our problems. Men in particular like to jump right in with solutions, though we can all do it. If you want a demonstration of this, the hilarious youtube video, It’s not about the Nail. I wanted to embed the video here, but it went wonky last time I did it and destroyed my first draft of this post (which was brilliant by the way). Please don’t give me comments like “you should have been saving as you went along.” I just want you to hear me, and feel my pain. Empathy is good. I’d like to hear such things as, “I hear you. I imagine you feel really frustrated right now.” See how it works?
Harville Hendrix has a technique for empathetic listening he calls Is there Mores? One partner starts talking. The other partner can only respond,”thank you is there more?” They go on until they are done, and then you switch roles. It’s a great exercise for creating the space for your partner to really tell you what is going on with them. A lot of couples stop talking because they feel so frustrated trying to get their partner to listen to them. When it comes to communication, there is no such thing as too much clarity! Once you hear what a person is really saying, you may find that they have a need you don’t want to fill. If, in order for them to feel truly heard, they have a demand that you do such and such a thing, this is a chance for them to practice tomorrow’s skill of Honoring your Right to Think and Feel as You Do.
But what to do when you are listening, and you don’t like what you are hearing? This is a hard one. I think women in particular are guilty of thinking, “what he really means is. . .” and trying to put a better slant on things. On the first date, if a man says, “I don’t want a committed relationship” you are better off listening to him. He doesn’t mean “I am just waiting for the right one to come along and change me.” There’s a very good chance you will end up broken hearted and surprised when he is true to his word and leaves when things get too close. Sometimes, my partners say things that hurt my feelings. In this instance,I find it useful to let them know, “I’m not sure what you intended but what I got from what you said was. . . .” Then they get the chance to look at what they said. Sometimes, I’m right, and they were trying to hurt me instead of communicate. Then we get to keep peeling the onion back, until we get to the first cause. I said something that caused them to say something, and so on. Sometimes, I am misinterpreting their intention. Either way, the honesty brings about clarity, and the clarity breeds more Love.
Let me hear ya! Post your thoughts on practicing the skill of hearing below. And for women who want to speak their needs better, and practice hearing as well, The Desire Course for Women is coming to Asheville Feb. 28th.
Tomorrow: I Honor Your Right to Feel and Think as You Do