Listening in Relationships

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in inspirations, media bar | 0 comments

holding hands

Intimacy, communication, compromise … the list flows endlessly when we arrive at the work of relationships. In thinking about what is universally applicable – my mind settles on “listening.”

To “listen.” This simple yet profound act is about “giving attention with the ear.” Perhaps it could be thought about as human warmth, “an embrace with one’s ear.” Full bodied. Listening is giving attention with one’s mind, one’s heart—one’s everything really.

The act of listening in our intimate relationships, though, can take a distinctive turn—as slight as the move of one letter—reactive and creative.

In reactive listening – a kind of “defensive” listening to use the playing field as an image – we see strategy engaged. Do I like what they are saying or don’t I? Should I agree or disagree? What move is coming next? The center of the dialogue is, ironically, the listener. When listening reactively, attention to, or trying to truly know, the other person is blocked.

Reactive listening might sound like this:

Joe: “I had a really tough day at the office today… I wish I could figure out a way to switch jobs.”

Sally: “Well, if you switch jobs … that would be really tough on our family’s finances.”

older people mountain listening

In creative listening, we open ourselves to the other. Through “undefended love,” there is nothing to agree or disagree with. You are not calculating the next play … or evaluating what you are hearing to assess what it means for you. You are simply listening to know the other person’s truth.

Creative listening affirms, embraces what’s so:

Joe: “I had a really tough day at the office today… I wish I could figure out a way to switch jobs.”

Sally: “I’m so sorry to hear that. I’d love to hear more about what’s going on.”

In counseling couples, the slight move toward creative listening transforms and enhances communications – and the relationship itself. The battle is over. Communicating becomes less painful. Partners are able to receive each other’s truths with ease and create something … new.