Communicate by Listening

A number of years ago Oprah introduced a prominent psychologist to her viewing public. His name is Harville Hendrix, and his ideas were so compelling that she 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, which he called Imago Therapy. Basically, his theory is that we unconsciously choose our partners, in order 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. 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 in my own life, and this is where I learned about Active Listening.

Remember: only about 20% of communication is verbal. The other 80% is nonverbal, and is conveyed largely through body language and omissions in what we do say – 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, when I was sitting on a couch with a female friend who was also a professional colleague. The speaker was discussing body language, and made a subtle reference to my friend and me that indicated we had a more 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.

And listening can never be over-emphasized. 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, as well. Our experiences have created a filtering system – a lens, if you will, through which everything we hear gets interpreted. This further interferes with any clear communication. Harville Hendrix was very aware of this issue, and that’s one of the reasons he developed Active Listening.

Here’s 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?” I would be required to repeat to her as much of what I had 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. Naturally, my filtering system was rejecting the information. Eventually we would reverse roles, and I would do the communicating; she would be the active listener.

There is a reason that I am emphasizing listening skills. Very often a caller will inadvertently repeat to me something that their partner had said, without the caller processing the information appropriately, which always indicates a very powerful filtering system at work. I often hear, “I am so confused.”

Of course, what I just heard was usually very clear to me, even second-hand. But in this case I was not viewing the situation through that particular caller’s own 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. Listen hard.

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