What if, when emotions are high, when you feel wronged, when you want to lash out or prove a point, you listen instead?
The art of listening — no matter how skilled you consider yourself — is so much harder when you feel betrayed or simply disappointed. This is especially true in love relationships, whether it’s with friends, family, or lovers. Suddenly, your perspective becomes truth, and you falsely believe that you must be the messenger of that truth in order for the situation to be remedied. By letting the person know exactly how they’re failing you, they’ll change, right?
Most of the time, no, that’s not how it works. That approach will trigger defensiveness and their own feelings of betrayal and disappointment.
True magic happens when you can lay down your weapons, open your ears and heart, and listen with genuine care and curiosity.
It might look something like this…
“I’m having a really hard time with (the situation). I feel (insert your feelings) when (the action) and it’s making me think that (your interpretation, e.g. you don’t care about me, you don’t love me, you don’t value our relationship). Is that true?”
Then deep breath, silence, and listen. Listen for what you might learn, about the other person and yourself. Listen without rolling your eyes or building up your defenses. Listening for the opening into their truth.
Then, ask more questions…
“Can you tell me more about that?”
“I see what you mean, you’re right. What would help?”
“How can I communicate differently next time?”
If this is done with a true desire to understand, your heart will open and you’ll be able to receive golden nuggets of truth that will help you grow. And when your partner sees that you’re sincerely interested in their experience, if they are an emotionally mature and loving human, they will return the same kindness. They will listen with the same degree of openness and attention, because that’s what you’re giving them. They will reflect it right back to you, and that’s when your relationship can truly expand to a new level of understanding.
If that’s not the response you get, well, that’s its own red flag and perhaps a topic for a future a post.
Try it out and see how it goes. When you feel the need to lash out, attack, and defend, what happens when you listen instead?
Happy New Year!