If you’re like most people, you frequently ask yourself questions. Especially when it comes to communicating with your partner in an uncomfortable or tense time, thoughts like this might come to mind…
“What should I do?”
“What does she mean?”
“What can I say to make this better?”
Asking yourself questions can be very helpful and there’s one question in particular that’s fundamental to creating a great relationship.
That question is: “Am I listening from love or am I listening from my own agenda?”
Listening from love is one of the essential elements of a happy, healthy, connected and passionate love relationship or marriage.
It helps your partner feel respected, honored, important and even cherished.
When you don’t do it–you feel separation and distance.
What is “listening from love?”
Listening from love is listening with total attention to your woman with the intention to create a deeper connection and to truly understand her.
Very often, people think that if they truly listen with the intention to understand someone, they have to always agree and give up what’s most important to them. As you might imagine, this belief tends to bring up a lot of resistance and shuts the person down to really listening.
And, this belief is NOT true.
You can listen to your partner or to anyone else with an open heart and suspend your opinions, without losing your identity and who you are. You can ask for clarification when you’re confused or aware that you might be misinterpreting what you’re hearing and you can do so without having to jump in and defend.
Listening from love is not judging.
It’s listening –truly listening– to your partner without fear, doubt, judgment and other defense mechanisms getting in the way of a deeper connections of the heart.
One common complaint between partners is, “You never listen to me!”
This was true for one couple I’ll call Sam and Anna.
As I got to know this couple through coaching sessions, it became clear that Sam was sort of listening, but he was too fearful to say what he was really thinking because he thought Anna would “flip out” if he did.
He operated from the assumption that she’d react to his honest opinions in the way she did 5 years ago when they went through a particularly rough patch in their marriage. As a result, Sam didn’t really listen to what she was saying– he filtered her words through his memory of what happened in the past.
To avoid repeating those painful arguments that occurred 5 years ago, Sam listened to Anna enough to decide what he thought she wanted him to say but he wasn’t really listening to her fully or from the heart. They didn’t fight anymore because he agreed with everything she said, but in reality he harbored resentment and was emotionally withdrawn. Anna felt the distance between them, but couldn’t figure out what was wrong or why Sam shut down.
There was little genuine connection and no conscious agreements between them because of Sam’s fear to reveal his true feelings and his focus on the what happened in the past.
To listen from love, you’ve got to be present and create a safe space for honesty. Here are some more tips for healthy and connecting communication…
1) Be an engaged listener.
Whether you’re listening to your partner on the phone or in person, give her your undivided
attention. If you don’t have time to listen at that moment, arrange a time when you can truly listen and focus in on the conversation.
Listening is a time to forget “multi-tasking.”
2) Stay in the present moment.
Don’t let your mind drift into thinking about things that happened in the past or what may happen in the future–or what you might say or do next. Don’t guess what your partner will say or do. Just listen.
When you feel yourself mentally “leaving” the conversation, gently (or not so gently) pull yourself back into the present. It’s helpful to place your attention on your heart area when you are doing this.
3) Make agreements.
Create conscious agreements with your partner to set up some “ground rules” to promote a sense of safety for listening and honesty. Agree to honor each other by listening when the other speaks without interrupting or criticism.
4) Don’t get defensive.
This can be tricky and if you have a habit of feeling the need to justify or defend yourself, practice taking a deep breath and calming down before responding.
When you feel yourself reacting defensively to what’s being said (even in your mind), bring your attention back into your heart and ask something like this, “Tell me more?”
When you ask that question from your heart, very often you hear what is truly going on for your partner and you may find out that the truth is far from what you thought it was. Before you react, explore the situation deeper.
5) Have the courage to speak your truth.
Sometimes it takes a great deal of courage to speak your truth, but if you suspend your expectations about how you think your partner will react, very often you find that the conversation goes better than you thought it would.
This is something that ALL of us would benefit from paying attention to and practicing. No matter what your relationship is like, you can always get better at listening from the heart. When you do, disagreements resolve easier, communication improves and you and your partner can focus on the joy of being together.