Learning to listen (and also how to speak)

art by Freydoon Rassouli
art by Freydoon Rassouli

I am feeling deeply touched by being listened to, uninterrupted and being allowed to have my own process. This gift comes in regular amounts and is not by accident. I’ve worked, and continue to work to feed my soul in this nurturing way because I’ve found such richness and treasure allowing myself time and space to speak with another person listening. Ok, enough of being enigmatic; I’m talking about Listening Partnerships. A term that comes from Hand In Hand Parenting but isn’t an exclusive technique. It’s used by  co-councillors  and other groups worldwide. It’s simple, yet my experience has found it profound in an ongoing and ever-deepening way.

Before I started using Listening Partnerships (LP’s) regularly I found access to parts of myself through meditation. Sitting quietly I was able to sift through some of the mind chatter, feelings and physical sensations that seemed never-ending. Underneath all that there was, and continues to be, a more subtle, yet more solid ground; like the rock that lies beneath the soil under our feet. This is the place of essence, where my ‘I’ begins to melt away and that which is currently me is able to touch on something that, while also being me, is part of something much bigger and much more magnificent that this earthly momentary experience. But these glimpses were fleeting, and somehow communicating them was near impossible. How to communicate such depth and with total unattachment to how it may be received, or even understood. Maybe I’m going to deep here, maybe I should back up a bit and go back to talking about LP’s, they are amazing and much easier to write about being more tangible and accessible. And were the focus of today’s post….I’m very passionate about them as anyone can, and everyone could at least give them a try.

All there needs to being is a willingness to stop, listen and then when it is our turn, to speak. In essence an LP is an agreement between two people to take turns listening. Say we have half an hour free, ok then its ten minutes each; put on a timer, I talk, you listen, timer goes off, we swap, you talk I listen. When we end we find another time to do it, maybe next week. Yeah that’s it. Simple, right? It can seem so, but it’s a good idea to prepare a little and set the space so that intentions are clear. This is not a conversation, this is a confidential space where you take turns to give the other person your full attention while they talk, and also to receive their full attention while you talk. The basic underlying assumption is that your listening partner is an intelligent, loving being and totally capable of building excellent relationships. They don’t need your help, your advice or your words of wisdom. They have everything that they need inside of them to solve all their problems and find their own way in the world, as do you. What they do need is some time, space and loving attention to access those parts of themselves.

There are four principles that I’d like to outline here as they are really quite lovely (and by the way this isn’t exclusively for women, or men, but I’ve chosen to use she as my pronoun of choice):

*Respect your listening partner, and the power of your attention.

*Pay attention to your partner’s issues, not your own, during her turn.

*Identify the upset that your partner has chosen to work on.

*Help your partner to release the emotional tension she talks about.

Now that last one leads to a bit of a question; I wrote before about ‘don’t try to solve their problems,’ but then I say ‘help them.’ In this context it could mean: help them to laugh, or work on fears, or cry, or work on the fear behind her anger, or yawn, or tantrum. It means when you have identified something that you’re hearing that feels really important, don’t be afraid to gently lead your partner back to it if she drifts away to speak of something else, she may be feeling uncomfortable and just need you to say that it’s ok to go there and talk about, or cry about these things.

During my time using LP’s on a regular basis I found I’ve come to trust myself to unleash my potential to think freely. I’ve also found a great pile of reasons why listening is so difficult and how my mind can totally get in the way…for example I’m great at jumping in to tell my own story, or give my opinion, or tell them how I wold have done it, or what I would have done differently if I was them. Oh yes I can do that. But I’m learning how I also have the ability to slip gently down into the flow of the river and allow the water of words, of consciousness, to flow past and pay attention in an open-minded, compassionate and deeply loving way; knowing that the person I’m listening to is an incredible being with deep powers for self-healing and happiness but that at times she needs space and time to express her frustrations and anger at what is happening in the moment.

It’s ok; clouds drift over the sky all the time, none of them are permanent.

2 thoughts on “Learning to listen (and also how to speak)

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