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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"

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