Every time I open my mouth to speak up I want to be heard.
This sounds really obvious – I mean why would I ever say something out loud if I didn’t want it heard by someone? Even though it is obvious I often find myself forgetting it, especially with my partner or my kids. I find myself preaching or ranting. When I have a lot to say and there is someone in front of me who is apparently listening, then I dump everything on them. Usually they either can’t get a word in themselves or they are so focused on their own thoughts that, what appears to me as attention on what I am saying, is rather concentration on what they are thinking.
Why is this important? Learning how to express myself can considerably enhance the quality of my relationships. I know for myself that 30 minutes spent with my wife sharing what is on our minds and in our hearts is highly nurturing. When we go for several days without this kind of connection, I always feel less grounded, more tense and more internally cluttered with stuff that builds up. I do have several close friends with whom I have regular connection talks – but the quality when I do this with my wife is very different. We share a unique kind of intimacy that allows space for so much more than with anyone else. And all we are really doing is speaking up and being heard.
At other times something is on my mind and I want to resolve it. When my partner is also involved then it is really important for me to tell her what’s going on and work on it together. Only by being heard fully can we get an accurate picture of what’s going on, and without this it is hard to move to a resolution.
When speaking up, my partner has some responsibility to listen to me – to stay focused on me and make an attempt to understand what I’m saying and connect with me. It is my responsibility to make it as easy as possible for her to do this. This means taking into account her attention span and her reactions to what I’m saying. By takign care of what I express and how I do it.
6 Tips for making it easier for people to listen
Keep it short
40 words or less is not a hard and fast rule. It is simply a reminder to keep what you say as short as possible to give your listener the chance to digest it. If you want to be heard then you need to give them a chance to not only hear you, but process and respond as well. This means keeping it short. This is true if you are passing on information, talking about something that is painful to you or expressing gratitude. We just can’t take in a lot of words all at once.
The 40 word dance
Try speaking one point at a time and after each point (short ones) ask the other person what they heard, or what their reaction is, or how they see it. Ask something to give the other a chance to respond. If you are both trying to express short points, one at a time then it becomes like a verbal dance with the lead changing fluidly between you. Expressing and listening and always getting closer to understanding each other.
Express the essentials
What is essential in what you want to be heard about? Not only that, but what is easier for your partner to hear? Generally, hearing observable facts is easier than hearing judgements and interpretations. Hearing what’s wanted is easier than hearing what’s missing. And hearing vulnerability is easier and more connecting than hearing ego and grandiosity.
Give breathing space
You don’t need to cover every single issue in one conversation. Especially if the topic is tough, you might need to create a pause to give time for both of you to reflect on what is being said. When there are strong feelings involved then this becomes even more important – not to supress the feelings but rather to be with them and listen to them. If anger is stimulated, what is this pointing to?
Stay on point
It can be tempting to digress as having your partner listen to you might encourage you to bring up other matters. But this simply obscures the original point. Of course, there are many styles of conversation and dialogue, but try to conclude one topic before moving to another rather than multi-topicing (I made up that word).
Remember it is all about connection
Speaking up and listening is about connection. When you slip into it becoming about making changes and forget the connection then you are likely to get stuck into positions. Talking is about revealing part of your truth, your thoughts, your feelings or your higher self. Listening is about receiving someone else’s truth, thoughts, feelings or higher self. It is a process of discovery – if you choose to make it so.