Empathic listening is a choice. Audioapathy is a word I coined to describe the condition often experienced when partners become apathetic about listening when their partner talks with them. It is a dreaded dis-ease (emphasis is on purpose) that can poison your relationship. Although it appears that men are more affected than women, some women also get it.
Hearing is involuntary. You can be sound asleep and still hear something or someone, but listening is voluntary. It is an intellectual and emotional choice. It implies effective communication between the sender and the receiver, which hearing does not.
It is a wise partner who, when their partner is talking, puts down the evening newspaper or turns the TV off, makes eye contact and truly listens to what their partner is saying. Very wise. Listen like you mean it. It may be difficult to listen to what they have to say, however, if the truth hurts – be grateful. When your partner talks, listen for the truth about what they are saying instead of going on the defensive. That only keeps you stuck.
It may take courage for your partner to express their feelings if they haven’t been used to doing so. To immediately defend your own position (or to disagree or argue) invalidates your partner’s feelings and usually serves to turn off future sharing possibilities. Listen for the opportunity to assist the relationship by taking responsibility for what you may be doing that trips their trigger and causes them to make a choice to feel the way they do.
How often do we just wait for our partner’s lips to stop moving so we can say something? Empathic listening gets inside your partner’s frame of reference. You see their world the way they see it, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they “feel.” Listening is one way to connect to others without trying to fix them.
Apathetic listeners breed contempt, resentment and often the person who desperately needs to be heard eventually shuts down. A lack of effective communication is the number one problem in relationships.
Try this. Listen to your partner without the burden of having to “do” anything other than give them room to talk and your full attention. Listen more and talk less. You can’t learn anything when you’re talking. How do you spell success in a relationship? Be wise. Listen. L-I-S-T-E-N.
Read, “Communicating is Not Optional: How to Listen So Your Partner Will Talk” – A communication gap not only undermines the potential of your relationship; it can, and usually will eventually destroy the relationship. Use an effective process Larry James uses when coaching couples to teach them to listen and talk, but not at the same time.
Your comments are always welcome!
Copyright © 2009 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and a nondenominational minister. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere. Something NEW about relationships is posted every 4th day on this Relationships BLOG.
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