How to Really Communicate: Listen!

Listen

A number of years ago Oprah introduced a prominent psychologist to her viewing public. His name is Harville Hendrix. In fact, his concepts were so pertinent that she actually had him return 16 more times. He authored several books, one of which was Getting the Love You Want. He also introduced his own form of relationship counseling and called it Imago Therapy. Basically, his theory states that we subconsciously choose our partners to heal childhood emotional imprints. I was always impressed with his theory because I absolutely believe that this IS the case, but I got there astrologically, and as many of my callers will attest, I often go there in my readings. I did have the opportunity to experience Imago Therapy firsthand during a stressed relationship of my own. This is where I learned of Active Listening.

We depend so much on verbal communication. One of my favorite “misquotes” is that we all make the false assumption that when we string a bunch of words together that communication actually takes place. I have been taught in my hypnosis training that only about 20% of communication is verbal. 80% is non-verbal, mostly through body language and omission, but this all occurs on a subconscious level. I had this pointed out to me years ago in an embarrassing fashion during a local hypnosis meeting. I was sitting on a couch with my female friend who was also a professional colleague. The speaker was discussing body language and made a subtle reference to my friend and myself that indicated our personal interest in each other. Apparently we were telegraphing on a subconscious level what we did not yet know on a conscious level Our relationship did in fact go to a personal level a few months later.

The way we communicate is only half of the issue. The other half is what we are hearing. Anais Nin once wrote, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as WE are.” I will add that we hear things as we are also. Our experiences have created a filtering system, a lens, if you will, through which everything we hear gets interpreted. This further interferes with clear communication. Harville Hendrix was very aware of this issue and developed a technique within the Imago process to facilitate clear communication between two people in a distressed relationship. He called it Active Listening.

Here is how it works. My partner would tell me what her feelings were concerning a relationship issue that was distressing her. At a certain point she would stop and say to me, “Do you understand?” Then I would be required to repeat to her as much of what I just heard as possible. If I heard her correctly, she would go on. If not, she would repeat it. Once again she would say, “Do you understand?” This cycle would go on until I repeated to her precisely what she intended to communicate. This turned out to be a very tedious mode of communication because in one instance I actually had to repeat one paragraph 6 times before I got it right. It was no coincidence that this particular paragraph pushed an emotional button in me that caused me great distress. So, my filtering system was rejecting the information. Eventually we would reverse roles and I would do the communicating and she would be the active listener.

There is a reason why I am emphasizing listening skills. Very often a caller will inadvertently repeat to me something that their partner had said, but the caller was not processing the information appropriately, indicating a very powerful filtering system at work. I often hear, “I am so confused.” Even though what I just heard was very clear to me. But you see, in this case I was not viewing the situation through THAT caller’s filtering system. This is where the term “seeing the world through rose colored glasses” originates. We all have such filters. They are both a necessity and a burden, but when clear communication is critical it really helps to LISTEN.

15 thoughts on “How to Really Communicate: Listen!

  1. Lili

    What really peeevs me about this is the FBI has crimes to attend to. I know for a fact they are blowing off criminal civil rights violations here in Connecticut, as is par for the course. They need do their jobs and quit wasting our taxes on this. I’ve had it with public servants who are full of themselves and shirk their essential duties.

    Reply
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  8. TERRANCE

    AS A CRM.DEFENSE ATTORNEY OF TEWNTY FOUR YEARS,I FEEL THAT I HAVE A SPECIAL INTREST IN THIS ARENA.IF PPL.WOULD LOOK AT THE WORDS THEY ARE USING ON A DAILY BASIS OR IN ANY ONE RELATIONSHIP THEY HAVE,AND WHEN I SAY LOOK I AM SPEAKING FROM EXP.TAKE A LOOK AT A COURT TRANSCRIPT AND SEE WHAT YOU’VE SAID”VER BADUM” VERUS WHAT YOU FEEL YOU MAY HAVE ARTICULATED TO THE PERSON YOU’VE BEEN TALKING WITH AND YOU’LL BE AMAZED.
    WHAT YOU SAY AND WHAT THE OTHER PERSON HEARS CAN BE TWO VERY DIFFRENT STORIES.I’VE LOOKED AT TRANSCRIPTS OF MYSELF IN COURT WHEN QUESTIONING A WITNESS/DEFENDENT AND FOR THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF COURTROOM HEARINGS I WAS TALKING OUT OF MY WAZOO 90% OF THE TIME.
    THAT COULD NOT BE WHAT I ASKED TO SAID PERSON I WOULD SAY TO MYSELF AFTER LOOKING AT EXACTLY WHAT I HAD JUST READ.BUT IT DOES GO TO SHOW YOU THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY AND END UP ACTUALLY SAYING MAY DIFFER SUBSTANTIALLY.THEREFORE BE VERY CAREFUL TO LISTEN TO YOURSELF AND SEE IF YOUR CONVAYING WHAT YOU’D LIKE THE LISTENING PARTY TO HEAR.
    PPL.REMEMBER THE START AND FINISH OF ANY GENERAL CONVERSATION SO IF YOU HAVE TO DROP A LITTLE BAD NEWS THATS WHERE YOU’D BE BEST PUTTING IT.REGARDS,T.J.PRUDUN LLB.
    THIS LETTER WAS DICTATED BUT NOT READ, SIGNED OR REVIEWED BY MR.PRUDUN.
    rb/TJP

    Reply
  9. sedona extension 5272

    Dear Phillip,
    Thank you for such an astute article on the art of listening. Well said and clearly communicated!

    Really listening to others is an on-going practice, one that is truly rewarding, and one that has taught me so much about my self and others.

    It’s amazing sometimes when I’m listening to my clients, friends or family talking about how confused they feel about someone or something. As you pointed out, from the listener’s perspective, they may be communicating a great deal of clarity.

    One of the things I find amusing and embarrassing about my own life is that I sometimes catch my self talking to my self or someone else about how confused I feel. The blessing of listening to others in my work is that my clients have taught me that if I stop and really listen to my self I will recognize I’m not confused at all!

    When I feel confused, I walk around the house speaking out loud until I can “feel” a shift into clarity in my body, or write until I reach that shift.

    Wishing you many blessings

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  11. Grace

    Hi Desrue2004
    I also am so very sorry for what you have been through. This world that world however all the same world. There is only a veil between where we are and our loved ones. They can see us and somtimes we cannot see them. They hear us also when we talk to them. We are all one spirit united forever through love. Life here is but a second but heaven is eternity. Know I am praying for you and a job. I lost my job also.
    You are not alone for most of us have walked your path. Time is kind and time heals. Just know and believe your loved ones are with you now and talk to them.
    Love
    Grace

    Reply
  12. Mark

    Oh! I am so sorry for you and I feel your pain! Please know that I am with you and you are not alone in your grief and confusion! I’ll pray for you. Your loved ones are alright, and where they need to be! Believe.

    Reply
  13. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Hi desrue2004,
    I am very sorry for your losses…..
    I’ve died and crossed over twice….and I can tell you that your son IS with your Mother.
    In fact, they can see you, hear you, AND EVEN FEEL your emotions on the other side.
    So go ahead and speak to them….they are listening I assure you. They may not answer you right away as that wall of grief is sometimes very hard for them to break thru to reach you. But they will usually give you clues when you least expect it…or, they may come to you in a dream.
    You are in a major transition ( we all go thru transitions at some point in our life,so I want you to know that are not alone )….they can be rough, yes….but usually enlightening in many ways with happiness in the end.
    You may even want to consider obtaining some grief therapy, at some point, after you find employment.
    I am here for you,if you need further guidance and help.
    Blessed Be & Hugs….Gina Rose ext.9500

    Reply
  14. desrue2004

    I am HURTING so bad,I Lost my dad on 12/21/2008 than his brother(my uncle) On 12/25/2008 . On 02/23/2009 my brother and the worst was losing my 24 year old on 05/02/2009 .He is 25 as of today 10/18/2009 .I know ther is a VERY LARGE emptyness inside of me . I have been laid off since last 4/1/2008 I have not been able to find a job ! I am soooo confuss in what is going on or what is happening in my life…. I want to know my son is w/my MOM ,I would love to hear from him I miss him so so so much I love him he has always been my #1 Pride and Joy…

    Reply

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