Monday, January 26, 2015

Really Listening

How often do we really listen? Years ago my (now ex) husband and I did Imago couples therapy- a pretty straightforward method of dialogue where one person speaks and the other mirrors back what they heard asking, "Did I get that right?" (to which the speaker can add correction or clarification, or say "yes") and (like we really meant it as an invitation) "Can you tell me more?"

What I discovered was that we cannot accurately and completely mirror what another shares with us (including the feeling behind the words) if we are preparing a response of any kind (even agreement, and certainly not rebuttal) while we are listening.

I know, it sounds obvious- but until I actually tried it I was not aware of how often I was not 100% there, was in fact preparing my response while listening to another, distracted by my own inner chatter. And that meant I was missing a lot of what the other was trying to tell me. When we bring all of our attention to listening the intimacy deepens and that opens up all kinds of new possibilities.

What if we went through our day, really listening, pausing to take in what we are being told, what another- even the stranger we encounter at the store or on the street- is telling us? Yep, it would slow things down I know- maybe that's just one of the many benefits of learning to really listen. ~Oriah

(P.S.- Lest you dismiss this on the basis that the husband is now a wasband, I should add that a few other things besides a willingness to listen fully are needed to deepen the intimacy- like truth-telling. He was unable to do that, and on more than one occasion I faithfully mirrored back to him a lie I thought was true. Sigh. It's okay- one day I got it, and interestingly I wasn't even upset because the clarity was such a relief. I calmly said, "This is never going to stop is it- the lying?" And in an uncharacteristic moment of truth-telling for which I am truly and eternally grateful he replied, "No. I can say it will and I mean it when I say it, but. . . . the lying will continue." Sometimes the truth hurts- and sometimes it just doesn't have very much to do with us.) 

Photo from Karen Davis at

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