During my conversation with Margaret and Steven, she was trying to explain to Steven—at my suggestion—some of the unloving things he did on a regular basis. Each time she spoke, he responded with some variation on the following:
“No . . .” Almost every time we say the word “No” after someone else has spoken, it’s very unlikely that he or she will feel like we listened to them. Steven was not genuinely listening.
“But . . .” Oh, how easily we justify this word. We claim simply to be offering another perspective, but what follows “but” is usually a statement of what WE believe, not any indication that we really understand what the other person has said.
“I just . . .” With these two words we attempt to minimize whatever inconsiderate words or actions we have just spoken or committed. We make a big mistake, greatly inconveniencing others, and we respond with what we were “just” trying to do.
“I only . . .” See above, following “I just.”
“I thought . . .” Another favorite method of minimizing what we have done. Following these two words, we carefully explain how our inconsiderate words or behavior were justified by brilliant reasoning. Rarely is our reasoning sincere or valid. How often do people say:
“I thought you said XX, so I did much MORE than you originally requested.”
“I thought it was MY turn to do the dishes, not yours.”
In other words, we use our reasoning to minimize what we were asked to do, or to justify doing things OUR way. We never say, “I thought” as we explain how we did MORE than we were instructed to do.
“You said . . .” We say this to point out inconsistencies in what the other person has said, mostly to justify our own position or behavior.
Truly listening to another person is usually the first—and often most important—thing we can do to demonstrate a genuine caring for another person. It doesn’t really matter how many of the other elements of loving we execute—touching, sex, giving gifts, performing acts of service—if we exclude true listening. If you don’t get the impression that I truly listen to you when you speak, you will not feel loved by me. Why? Because each time you speak, it’s as though you offer me a small piece of who you are—your soul, if you like—and if I don’t listen, I’m rejecting that precious gift.
We need to be more aware of each occasion where other people speak and exercise our capacity to really listen. If we have no idea what listening looks like, we can explore that on the many books and webinars and other educational opportunities offered in The Learning Center.
Replace your fear and confusion with peace and happiness.
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