Listen with your heart
Listening to another human being with an open heart is a gift of immense value.
But, truly listening without distraction or personal agenda, especially to family members, can often be a real challenge. Even when I try to listen fully to my husband, I sometimes fail, and he ends up feeling judged and rejected.
This is because…
Old habits are hard to break
It’s easy to get into bad communication habits, which don’t support us – or our relationships – very well. Worse, they forge neurological pathways that, with practice and over time, form wear well-worn dirt tracks in our brains.
When Eric Fromm wrote this in 1974 in his seminal work, The Art of Listening, it struck a deep chord in me. Because, in working with hundreds of families over the years, I’ve seen that despite our best intentions to listen to one another, we often fall short.
When was the last time you really listened to your child without interruption, judgment or correction?
Young people, in particular, can feel that their parents, the people who are supposed to love them the most, don’t understand them, and this can drive a destructive wedge in the relationship. They may understand that they’re loved, but if they don’t feel it, then that love is undermined. Because it is through our feelings that we verify our knowing.
Even in well-functioning families – because we know the people around us love us and accept us as we are – we often practice less than helpful communication habits. The saying: “familiarity breeds contempt” is real, and, especially ripe, in today in our fast-paced digital lives.
Do you recognise any of these bad habits in your family?
- Saying the first thing that comes to mind and/or whenever you feel like it
- Using disrespectful or judgemental language
- Talking over a person when he/she is speaking
- Thinking of what you’re going to say next before the other person has finished
- Raising your voice
- Expressing agitation and impatience
Any and all of these are understandable; I’ve practiced them all! “I’m tired; I’ve worked all day,” I say to myself. “Can’t I just let my hair down without having to focus on anyone else? They’ll still love me tomorrow, right?”
Good Listening is worth the effort.
So why do we have to keep working at good communication, especially at home?
Because it matters… it matters to our relationships and the overall feeling and culture we create in our homes. Also, and most importantly, it increases the probability that we will get what we want… get the change that we need from the people around us.