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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Good Listeners Are Hard to Find

Listen, Please Listen

Has anybody said to you, "Please listen to me!"? How about, "You never listen to me!"? Do you stop listening sometimes after the first two or three words because you think you know what the speaker is going to say? Perhaps you feel frustrated because that seems to happen often and you don't feel heard. Listening is a skill. People who take the time to learn to listen better enrich their soul mate relationships. Listening the Forgotten Skill, an excellent book by Madelyn Burley-Allen gives help for serious learners. Some of the questions she suggests the listener keep in mind:

     What is the speaker's intent?

     Am I listening actively, formulating my meaning and then checking back with the speaker to see if my meaning is his or her meaning?

     What information does the speaker want me to have?

     What assumptions and conclusions am I reaching?

     Am I resisting the feedback clues because I don't want to deal with the situation? If so, what can I do about it?

     Am I sizing up the speaker? How is this affecting my interpretation of the message?

     What barriers might be at work distorting the message?

     What questions could I ask to verify my understanding and minimize the effect of barriers?

     What information is not being provided?

This book was a big help to me. Years ago I lent it to a client and never got it back. I hope it has helped him as much as it helped me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Listening Is Active, Not Passive

How to Listen So Your Lover Will Talk

One night I came home from work very tired. Listening to people's problems all day sometimes reinforces negative responses to my own problems. I had been dealing with some of the normal consequences of aging--my husband's retirement and the subsequent change of roles we have expereienced, and other stresses.

I  needed some information for a task my husband and I were working on. When I went to retrieve it from the place I have kept such information for years, I could not find it. In exasperation, I said, "I feel so off-balance these days, because we organize things so differently. I never know where anything is any more."

Everett responded, "You get off-balance easily." What I heard at that moment were the words of a man to his wife in my office that morning. "You are crazy," he had said. "You need help."

I reacted in anger to Everett's comment. I said, "Don't say that!"

A dozen thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of seconds leaving me depleted and feeling depressed. I put my head down on the kitchen table. "What's the matter, Honey?" Everett was concerned. "I don't know." I honestly did not know. I tried to sort it out in my own mind. "What is going on for me?"

Everett, who would tell you he has been a poor listener for years, encouraged me to talk. He has learned some listening skills over the years. He used all of them to help me sort out my feelings and gain some understanding of the pressures I felt. What a gift that was.

Sometimes when you feel exhausted or stress has accumulated, you need a listener to help you sort out what is going on for you. The listener does not solve your problem or try to tell you how you feel. He simply listens carefully and reflects the feelings he hears. By his doing that, you begin to identify the feelings and sometimes the perceptions that led to the feelings. Then you can understand what you need to do to resolve the problem.

note: see Chapter 6 of my book, "Becoming Soul Mates"