Most discussions on communication center around speaking. We learn about what we want to say, who we want to say it to, how we want to say it, and if we are even more aware, we actually think about what our intention is in saying it! We often prepare for a speech, a conversation or a meeting where we need to present ideas and information. But how often do you “prepare” to listen? How often do you think about the quality of your listening, or even ask yourself the question, “How do I want to listen?” Yet listening is probably the most important part of communication. After all, if no one is listening, why bother to say anything?
The way we listen can give someone the experience of being heard or it can give someone the experience of being judged, analyzed, “fixed,” dismissed or a host of other experiences. In the listening model I teach, you can learn how to deeply hear into another person’s communication. This will take you beyond the spoken word, to the essence of what they are saying and feeling. You can learn to let go of judgment and biases that you have about the other person and be present to them and to their communication. When we are truly listened to, something transformational happens. Our spirits soar. We feel like someone really “gets” who we are. We matter. We exist in the listening of the other. We come into being through the quality of their listening. We hear ourselves. We take our true place in the relationship.
Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can offer your partner throughout your entire relationship. It often creates an enormous sense of relief and many times is actually all that may be needed to resolve a problem. Problems are often resolved just in the listening. In order to listen fully we need to become aware of what impedes listening. Begin to become aware of what you do other than listen. For example: judge, analyze, state your opinion, change the subject, drift off, tell your story, offer advice, agree, disagree, tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. When you stop all of that real listening becomes possible. Try this instead.
1. Offer Your Undivided Attention
Show that you are fully there, fully attentive to the message you are receiving. Maintain positive eye contact. Show the speaker that you are hearing the message being sent. Show that you are not only available but also actively engaged in receiving the message. No multi-tasking! Be fully present. Resist the urge to make comments or to judge anything being said. Just listen. Don’t interrupt. You’ll get to talk later.
2. Paraphrase It Back
Repeat back what you heard with a minimum of interpretation. Show that you understand what is being said. You don’t need to “parrot” what they say word for word as this tends to sound awkward or annoying, just make sure you really have the basic content of the message and its meaning. Clarify anything about the message to ensure understanding. For example: “So what I’m hearing is...” (paraphrase without interpreting) or “Let me make sure that I am understanding you correctly...” Let them correct any misunderstanding or interpretation. Paraphrasing allows us to make sure that we are actually hearing correctly (which we often don’t) and understand what they mean by what they are saying (which we often don’t).
3. Recognize the positive intention of the speaker
Listen for the underlying, positive intent. The speaker is communicating that there is something he/she really cares about. What is it that they really want and why is that important to them? Listen for that concern, the underlying needs or values of the speaker. Acknowledging what really matters to him/her encourages the speaker to move toward a positive, purposeful resolution.
For example, what could be the underlying positive intention of someone criticizing the way you dress? My guess would be that they really want to feel more attracted to you and therefore want you to dress in a way that has them visually more drawn to you. Why would they want that? Well, probably because they want to sustain the connection and attraction in the relationship. Can you acknowledge and align on the positive intention, even if you don’t like the criticism or how they are expressing it? “I appreciate that you want to continue to feel attracted to me and that there are things that I can do to help that.”
Once we get the person’s underlying positive intent and align with it we can negotiate possibilities and strategies that work for both of us. Often times we confuse strategy with intent. It’s important to separate those two in order to “get” the intent. Then collaborate on strategy. If you really don’t want to change your clothing then you can also come up with other strategies for generating the outcome of sustaining the connection and attraction in the relationship. If the underlying positive intention isn’t obvious to you, just ask! “What would my dressing differently do for you? What about that is important to you?” Keep asking until you get to something that is “supportable” even if it isn’t “your thing.” Then open up a conversation for possibilities for how you can work together to accomplish that.
This one shift in the way you listen could create the difference you’ve been looking for in the quality of your relationship conversation! If this was helpful be sure to catch my free webinar on the 8 Transformational Keys to Sizzling Relationships by going to www.lifetimeloveaffair.com now and opting in!
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