Want to be Heard Better?

Try This Communication Exercise

Note: This is the second of a two-part series.

What would it mean to say “I love you” if I neither hear you—nor care what you feel—nor exhibit any real desire to better get to know how you feel?

Many people do not love mindfully.  Some men and women are very clear that if anything is troubling them, they want and expect their partner to be fully available to them, fully interested in what they have to say, unreservedly present and compassionate.  They are oblivious to the fact that their partner desires the same of them, and oblivious also to how rarely they give it.

Each one of us has the responsibility in a relationship for knowing what we are receiving and what we are giving.  We need to know how we feel about the quality of the exchange—and also how our partner feels.  One of the surest indicators of trouble is when one partner feels he or she is giving much more than s/he is receiving.

If you want to know how your partner feels, usually the simplest way is to ask—and be willing to listen non-defensively, with an interest in learning rather than in justifying your own behavior.  To feel heard and understood by your partner, try this sentence completion exercise with each other:

  • One of the ways I can be difficult is…
  • Sometimes I can be frustrating when I…
  • Sometimes I make you angry when I…
  • Sometimes I hurt you when I…
  • One of the things you want from me and don’t always get is…
  • If I were to treat listening as a creative act…
  • If I notice the effect I have on you…
  • If I notice how I respond to compliments…
  • If I notice how I respond to criticism…
  • If I pay attention to the quality of my communications with you…
  • One of things I want from you and often fail to get is…
  • One of the ways I can make it difficult for you to give me what I want is…
  • Some of the ways I distance myself from you are…
  • With you, sometimes I’m afraid that…
  • One of the ways I can make my fears come true is…
  • Some of the things we enjoy about each other are…
  • Some of the things we have in common are…
  • I appreciate it when you…
  • I feel especially loved when you…
  • I feel most connected with you when…
  • If I brought 5% more benevolence to my encounters with you…
  • If I were more willing to share my excitement with you…
  • If I were more willing to expose my vulnerability to you…
  • If I could face you with less self-protective armor…
  • If I take more responsibility for being understood…
  • If I take more responsibility for understanding you…
  • I am becoming aware…

Guidelines for this exercise:  Sit holding hands with each other.  No distractions (music, phone calls, TV, children, etc.)  Let each partner answer each question thoroughly, which means there will be multiple answers to each question.  No interrupting or defensive reactions.

Source:  The Art Of Living Consciously by Nathaniel Branden (Fireside)

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