Thinking Out Loud

I Stopped Talking and Started Listening

I’ve always talked a lot. Those who knew me as a young child tell stories about how much I loved to talk. When you’re a cute, curly haired three-year old it can be delightful. My son talked a lot, too, and his daughter probably talks more than both of us combined.

Fortunately, when I was a novice counselor, I was exposed to some master listeners who impressed on me the importance of quieting down. As a counselor you must understand the other person in some depth before you can have much to say. Understanding does not occur by talking a lot, nor does it happen easily or quickly. I’m not advocating that day to day interaction be based on counseling principles. But, I am advocating for more listening.

In interpersonal relationships, it is important to listen in order to really understand what the other person is saying. Listening and then listening harder — recognizing that there is always more to know.

This is the secret of successful intimate relationships — recognizing that there is always more to know about the other and communicating that you really do want to know. Who doesn’t feel good about being heard and understood, especially when the content is painful? This is where real emotional connection is made. And connection is often the goal we are seeking, even though we are not always consciously aware of it.

When you have truly heard and understood (whether it is basic information, a description of something, or a deeper emotional truth) the communication has been successful. The satisfaction that comes from this is visceral for both parties — we experience it, something within feels completed, and it comes from listening well and being heard.

So when you think you’re done listening…listen some more. It’s good medicine.

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