Up to this point I have written several posts about talking. Now don’t get me wrong, I want all my readers to engage in conversation. However I thought it a good time to reverse the tables just a bit and discuss the art of listening.
Talking is the beginning of sharing our thoughts and ideas. But without a willing partner talking alone is akin to oral masturbation. If you’re doing it by yourself, the results can sometimes be less than spectacular. So when talking to each other, make certain that you have an active partner. If they are not interested or distracted, hold the conversation for a short while until things clear up and each of you can take an active role in the dialogue.
With that said, it is equally important that you be a good listener and not just hear the spoken words. Listening can be a great way to pick up on subtle things that are conveyed through voice inflection and body language. In a relationship discussion what is not said can be more important than what is said. For example, if a partner uses the word “fine” to end an emotionally charged conversation while turning away and folding their arms, does it really mean “fine”. NO! It means exactly the opposite. Although this is an extreme example that could be picked up by the dumbest of all men, you get my point.
Why Is This Important?
Regardless of the situation, by listening first, and I mean really listening, you put yourself in a very powerful position. As the listener you will get all of the information being offered. It gives you the ability to think about the message and create a reasonable, informed answer. This will help in advancing the conversation, learning more about your partner and if it is an argument, the listener has the power to shut it down with complete understanding of the other’s position.
It’s better to understand than to push a point for the purpose of being “right”. In relationship dialog there is no reason for right and wrong. Being in a relationship is just that, relating to each other. There is no need to dominate, no need to prove the point, no need to be right. Just listen first and try to completely understand your partner. You may be surprised by what it actually conveyed.
Several months ago I called my daughter and asked if she had spoken to her mother recently. In, what I thought to be, an angry tone, she replied, “Yes, she called me”. Very short and to the point, however I thought she was angry. All she really said was, “Yes, she called me”. Rather than ask why she was angry, I chose a position of power and asked her to share her thoughts about the conversation with her mother. We then had a wonderful, twenty minute, phone call. Had I chose to argue about her tone, the conversation could have been markedly different.
What is the Benefit?
In relationships we are emotionally invested. Our feelings are exposed for anyone to nurture or damage. And this leaves us feeling vulnerable to the next attack. In reality it is each of us who has the opportunity to choose to listen and engage in the conversation. There is nothing to fear when we are listening, because all of the information is coming to us. We are not hurting each other, merely listening to what is being imparted. If we choose to add meaning upon what is said it becomes our own fault.
Listening can be sexy as well. If partners are discussing sex, desires or wants be open to what is being said. Engage by asking probing questions;
- Does that interest you?
- How do you feel about that?
- Is there more there that we should discuss?
- Tell me more…
- What can I do in that regard?
Any additional question or comment to keep the dialog moving can only help. Try not to use the word “No” until you’ve listened to everything your partner has to say. He or she may be nervous and not get the words right at first. Give them room to expand and listen while they relax and get comfortable with the exchange.
I suggest never getting angry during times of conversation. This adds to those body language messages we discussed earlier. By remaining calm we have a better chance of getting our thoughts out clearly. And as the listener, anger dulls the senses and makes really understanding much more difficult.
With anything, this takes practice and it takes two people. If one is angry, neither is ready for a conversation. If one is distracted neither can communicate. And if one is incapable, neither have a chance to properly share.
So, give listening a try and let me know what comes of it. You may get a surprise, you may find something you didn’t know or you may just connect better than ever before. In any case, let me know how it goes. Your story may be what helps the next reader have a better relationship.
Love with no shame and ask with no fear