One of my favorite quotes about listening comes from therapist Suzanne Wallace Kaufman:
“Listen to learn. Speak to be known.”
When you incorporate these short, memorable commands into your daily conversations, you may witness a world of change take place in your relationships.
Listening to learn means:
- putting aside the stories you’ve told yourself about that person and the stories you may even be telling yourself about that person as you’re talking with them.
- not thinking about your reply while the other person is still talking.
- attempting to understand the other person’s perspective.
- trying to obtain a more well-rounded and objective view of the situation at hand, especially if the relationship is experiencing conflict.
- seeing the other person as a human being, with dreams and fears of their own, and not just an extra in the background of the movie of your life.
Speaking to be known means:
- learning how to be honest and vulnerable, but still with healthy boundaries in place.
- using “feeling” words to let the other person know how you feel about the situation. (Read “How Large is Your Feeling Vocabulary?”)
- revealing your own humanity, i.e., your hopes and fears, which can lead to points of connection and empathy.
- showing your hand, so to speak, so that the other person understands your desire to seek after the health of the relationship.
When you learn how to listen to learn and speak to be known, your relationships will flourish, deepen, and lengthen. The next time you enter into conversation, remember that quote and try to enact it as best as you can.