The Art of Listening: Listening For Others


Mastering the art of listening is not as easy as we might assume. See, most of us assume that listening is about how we think we listen. The internal dialogue goes, "Well yes, she said this and that and I heard every word." But listening, we forget, is an interaction between two or more people. Listening occurs in the talker's world too. In other words, does the talker feel listened to regardless of whether or not we think we heard what they said?

What I hear so often from couples is that they don't feel heard by their partners. They say "you never listen!" and the other person is baffled because he or she is thinking, "But, I heard you..." But what creates the feeling of being heard is the combined experience of the listener doing things like nodding their head, the "mmms" and that "ahhs", the eye contact and the reflecting back understanding of what the other is saying. What does not create the feeling of being listened to is when the other person is looking at the TV, walking in the other direction to complete a task, or being silent when a "uh huh, go on" is expected. It also doesn't count when you rush to say your own point of view without acknowledging in some way or another what your partner just said. To the talker, it often occurs like you're not hearing them even though you may have "heard" their every word.

This is Listening 101 people and yet we constantly fail at it. Me as much as anyone, my husband loves to point out! We fail because we verify reality in our own head verses checking in with others about their experience.

So, put down your blackberries, pause the Tivo, look up from chopping your vegetables and listen in a way your partner knows you're listening. Because it's the experience of feeling heard that helps create the connection and closeness we all so desperately want.

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