Friday, May 7, 2010

Relationship Tip - Listening

Listening... Huh? What??

You do not listen. Don't feel badly about that -- neither does anyone else. Is it any wonder then that living with and having meaningful relationships with other people is often referred to as one of the most difficult things? We have classes on public speaking, but where are the classes on listening? If everyone is speaking, but no one is listening, it's no surprise that the divorce rate in the USA was 48% in 2008.

One of the challenges in communication is what I'll call Family Language. We were each raised in a particular family environment, where certain words were used in certain ways, and held distinct meanings. Unfortunately, there is no set standard for Family Language, and the meaning of a word or phrase for one family is likely to mean something different in another.

During a heated discussion in my mid-20s, I came to realize that, when spoken with a particular tone, the phrase "What?" to me meant "What is wrong with you, are you stupid?" I did not hear the single word my partner spoke, or even that he was asking for clarification or increased volume, I heard that he thought I was stupid.

That's another challenge with what passes for listening -- hearing our own interpretation of what's said. My family did not say those things to me, I was never told that I was stupid. For whatever reason, I took on that interpretation. Realizing that my interpretation did not represent my boyfriend's intention led me to the next question... If it wasn't true with him, was it ever true with anyone? Did my family perhaps not accuse me of being stupid?

This points to one way out of these booby traps -- listening for the speaker's intention. I know that my fiance loves and respects me and wants me to be happy. So when he speaks in a certain way, and my hackles rise, I have the opportunity to be responsible for my own interpretation and say, "Okay, I just heard you imply that I'm stupid, but I don't think you meant that, did you? Did I hear you wrong?"

If he DID mean to call me stupid, we get to have a very interesting conversation... but that has never yet happened, and when he didn't, I get to let go of being upset and actually be WITH the man who loves me.

So the next time your panties get bunched or (insert manly example here), verbally check what you heard with the person who spoke it. You might discover a false interpretation, and gain access to intimacy and connection. And who doesn't want that?!

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

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