Recently, I wrote about the power of listening and suggested four steps to help you improve your own deep listening. There are two other perspectives on listening that I’d like to address here:
- being a good listener to oneself
- moving beyond the impasse of broken connection in an intimate relationship
Sometimes, in relationship with someone we care deeply about, listening stops. We feel lonely in their presence. Conversations feel like monologues, each trying to outdo the other, or, one-way talk that gets no response. A very natural reaction to this is:
You aren’t listening to me.
I’d like to suggest an alternative to this outward focus, beginning within:
- What is going on in me?
- What am I feeling that is totally unrelated to this person?
- What am I holding back from them, adding to the disconnect I feel?
- What walls have I built, walls of judgment, fear, blame, which prevent me from connecting with them, from listening to them?
In order to be a fully present, active listener, we must first be willing to listen within and be honest with ourselves. Unmet needs must be acknowledged – and met – but not necessarily by the significant other in our life. Consider this:
Today, when I felt the urge to blame my spouse for my loneliness, I paused to look within. What I saw was a week’s worth of ‘stuff’ – out of routine, minimal interaction with my other close friends, activities with him which didn’t nurture our relationship, minimal physical activity – all of this combined is a setup for me to feel ‘off’, unhappy, unsatisfied, lonely. And my impulse was to blame him.
When I set blame aside and spoke from my heart, I was able to share the whole picture and simply say, “I feel lonely.” rather than “You are not listening. You are the cause of my loneliness.” How could he be the cause? I hadn’t shared what I was feeling!
Deep listening is powerful and a needed (and often missing) piece in our society today. And … it must begin within. I cannot listen to you when I have unmet need. I cannot know my need clearly if I don’t listen within.
What inner listening practice am I willing to begin?
What walls am I willing to break through in service of connection?
Who might I add to my listening support team?
What single step am I ready to take?