On 12 September 2018 I published a blog called ‘How To Really Listen And Make People Fall In Love With You’.
It was a detailed blog about the mechanics of listening.
The ability to listen well makes such a huge difference to our relationships that I feel compelled to address it again from a slightly different angle.
What triggered this train of thought was watching Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, his wife, being interviewed. They are relationship gurus and have been working for decades helping couples who are struggling with their relationships.
Interestingly, they articulated what I know to be true from my own experience which is that poor communication between people leads to toxic relationships by which I mean relationships where you feel unloved, unimportant, even invisible as well as angry, frustrated and resentful.
The good news, they explained, is that you can rekindle the romance in your relationship no matter how long you’ve been together.
Let’s start with what we’re up against when we meet somebody new. We both bring to this new relationship all our past experiences including our experiences with past relationships that may have left us wounded and mistrusting. We also bring values and beliefs that we have developed since childhood.
Is it any surprise then that we’re only able to see things from our own point of view and that we find it really difficult to see our partner’s – or anyone else’s for that matter?
I know I used to.
When I was married to Jim, my ex-husband, I needed to be right. Not only that, he had to admit to being wrong – which, of course, never happened.
Our way of fighting, if you can call it that, involved me lambasting and criticising him in the deluded belief that it would encourage him to change, and him withdrawing, literally walking away leaving me fuming, angry, frustrated and resentful.
Have you ever experienced that?
But what if…
What if we changed the way we communicate with each other?
This is what I discovered.
Fights are a toxic way to solve a particular issue. That’s because we either decide the problem is the other person and that, if only they changed and did what we wanted then everything would be OK.
Alternatively, we blame them for everything that’s wrong, not just this particular issue but all issues going back all the way to the date we met.
Except that it doesn’t work. Trust me, I know.
With Paul it’s different.
It’s different because, a couple of years after I left Jim, I was able to admit to myself how I contributed to my own unhappiness and to the breakdown of my marriage.
And it’s different because I bring to my relationship with Paul the hard lessons I learned from that marriage.
This is what I’ve learned from being with Paul.
That truly listening to each other with an open mind, with a willingness to understand, with genuine curiosity and without judging is all that’s needed to solve every single problem.
It was while I was listening to the interview with Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen Hunt yesterday that I realised that Paul and I already do this – I just hadn’t realised the significance so here’s the approach as described by this husband and wife team:
Step 1 – “I need to have a conversation about …” (as an aside, Paul and I both know we can do this because we feel safe together. We know we’re not going to be criticised, put down or made to feel wrong for thinking or feeling the way we do.)
Step 2 – One person does the talking while the other person really listens without interrupting and without judging (even or, more accurately, especially in your own head)
Step 3 – I check I got it – I ask, “Are you saying that ….?”
Step 4 – Paul can say, “Partly. What I actually said was …”
Step 5 – I say, “Yes, I can see your point.” (I don’t actually have to agree with him, just accept that he feels as he does given his background and experience. This understanding comes from realising that, if I’d had the same background and experience, I would probably think and feel the same.)
Step 6 – THE MAGIC question that works every time though I hadn’t realise the depth of its power is: “Tell me more”.
Most people will say, “Have you finished?” implying “OK, you can shut up now. It’s my turn.”
That shuts things down. “Tell me more” allows the other person to say something they might not even realised they felt or thought or knew.
You shift from judgement to curiosity. That’s a huge deal!
Not having been listened to or heard or understood for most of my adult life I have blossomed under Paul’s attentive listening and so has he.
There’s nothing like feeling safe, heard and understood in a relationship for romance to blossom!
With love and gratitude,
P.S. If you believe I can support you, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on my mobile – 07903 795027 for a free, no obligation Obstacle Smashing Exploratory Session.
You will walk away with at least 3 options to get you started on a happier path – whether or not you choose to work with me.