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When It's Time to Listen

Updated on February 8, 2010

It's Not About Me

It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night

What I Hear and What You Say

I could have called this the secret to a successful and passionate relationship and it would be true. This may be the single most important key to closeness and connection with your partner. While your previous attempts at listening may have failed badly, the up side is, most of life's best lessons, and for some, writing and poetry, comes from the crucible of trial and error in close relationships.

To illustrate the need for this valuable skill, consider one of my favorites:

Why Guys Shouldn't Have Advice Columns

Dear Abbot,

The other day I set off for work for a very important meeting with our best client. I hadn’t gone more than a mile when my engine conked out and the car shuddered to a halt. When I called my best friend for help, she said she and her boyfriend were going to a movie and couldn’t help. I called my parents and they were in the middle of a bingo game and they each had two almost winning cards. My boyfriend answered just before my battery ran out and told me he was breaking up with me and didn’t think it would be appropriate for him to pick me up. I am so frustrated and depressed I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?


Deeply Wounded

Dear Deeply,

A car stalling can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Check that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it’s clear, check the servo spring clips holding the vacuum pipes onto the inlet manifold. Or it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the carburetor float chamber.

I hope this helps.

Even though the example above is directed at the men, ladies, listening is a skill both can learn.

Why We Don't Listen

1. We try to fix it.

Abbot was doing what a man likes to do, he was trying to fix what he thought was the problem. Unfortunately for us, what appears fixable is rarely the real problem. Sometimes it helps to say to yourself, remember, the goal is to hear not fix.

2. We can't hear it.

E. Eggerich in his book Love and Respect says that women speak and hear pink (words like love, adore, cherish, treasure, special, or romantic) while men speak and hear blue (words like respect, admire, impressed, wowed, hero, or look up to.) The challenge for men is to hear and speak more "loving" words and women would see their man light up when they spoke more "respect" words.

3. We are too busy thinking about our part of the conversation

If the conversation is about us, we tend to think of the correctness of the facts, the fairness or the tone coming our way and we already are starting to build our rebuttal or at least clarification of what the other is saying.

4. We get defensive

The most important thing to remember is the last part of my poem below.

5. We are rehearsing our own hurt

Many times when we hear someone talking to us about something we did or said, we remember the times when something worse was done to us or someone else by the one sharing and before we know it, our view of the speaker is not even close to the shining knight or stunning princess we fell in love with. A simple exercise might be to focus on three or four things you love about them while you hear them speak.

It's About You

From the Movie: Leap Year
From the Movie: Leap Year

When You Need Me to Listen

When you need me to listen,
I will look into your eyes
and be quiet

I will listen, not to criticize, nor to get you to change or agree,
I will listen to understand

When you are ready, I will tell you what I hear
even the part that remains unspoken

I do not need to protect
or defend myself from your words
They are merely sign posts directing me to
the feelings and needs behind them

What you mean or feel or desire may not be what I see
Nor the way I see them

So I will ask and listen
Until I understand
Until you know that I am on your side
Until we find the place where we can meet

Because when it is time to listen,
It is not about me
It is about you

©Winsome Publishing 2010, All rights reserved.


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    • RichERich1175 profile image


      7 years ago

      You are right on with your enlightening thoughts. Absolutely loved the poem and imagery.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Salt, what an astute metaphor. These days the cars have what they call the "brain" that senses where the problem is and flashes a diagnostic sentence or code. What they have not invented yet is a "heart" for the car that actually cares when things go wrong. Thank you for reading and for the insightful comment.

    • salt profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      I was taken for a walk through native bushland and shown some amazing small delicate orchids. Later, my car broke down. I had to concerntrate to find the problem. The detail was what I had missed. The battery was ok, the engine ok, it was the wire, the communication.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Wiser and happier--I couldn't wish for a better way to live my life than to spark that in others. Your gracious words are a treasure and that is what I will do with them. I am so glad you chose to read the trilogy in the order it was written--I tried to follow what was necessary in my own life and I wanted very much for it to translate that way. Thank you Maggs for walking with me through this exercise. =:)

    • maggs224 profile image


      8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I just love the way you write, so insightful and you seem to have a gift of really getting to the heart of whatever you write. I like the things that you choose to write and also the way that you write about them, especially your self-effacing humour. You have real talent and everyone who is lucky enough to come across you Hubs will come away after reading them wiser and happier than they went in. A definite thumbs up. I am off to read the next one in this trilogy. That poem at the end was great!

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      hope you got a good dodge because i've got a good arm ;-)

      but seriously i don't think enough can be talked about on this topic, but that's what makes the communication thing so elusive. Listening is definitely a strength.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thank you Izzy, so that's what women are doing while they're talking--listening. That explains why men can't catch up, women don't have that pesky handicap of thinking before they talk. (He says, grinning and dodging at the same time) =:)

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Great Great hub!I have to add some of my own about women. We can simultaneously talk and listen. Biologically, we process and use more parts of our brain simultaneously, but that's why it seems you never get a word in edgewise, because we will still be listeing and talking and you can interject at any time as we women do to each other. On the flip side, men seem to grunt a few times and had a completely meaningful and understanding conversation with each other.

      Love the poem too! It's a funny but serious subject and you tackled it from both perspectives.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Ha Ha, that reminds me of Radar and Colonel Blake in the M*A*S*H series where they are both talking at the same time and neither hears the other but it all gets done. Thank you for stopping by Pollyannalana.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      8 years ago from US

      This is very good, my husband and I have come to the conclusion though that being together so long its OK if he has his say and I have mine and neither of us know what the other has said, lol, at least we get it off our chest; that is about the way it is but if the other really does need an ear we do take the time to listen and help, and it really is important. Good Hub.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Micky lol--you are such a guy--but I know because prettydarkhorse let the cat out of the bag that you really have a sensitve heart. =:)

      FastFreta are you sitting on a bicycle cause I could swear you and Micky Dee are on a crosshubcountry tour together. =:) Just kidding--Thank you for your kind words.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      I really love this hub, it's many aspects make it not only informative, but also an interesting read. I especially enjoyed the poem that followed. I can't wait to read more.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      It may just be trash in the fuel line- maybe from cheap gas. I've seen that. Maybe the car needs a tune-up. I would change the air in the tires first!

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thank you Duchess. What I didn't add is that I have to tell myself to "Think twice" as well. =:)

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      8 years ago

      Winsome, I like that last comment, and the Hub. Well done.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Wren, thanks and me too. Carpenters have a rule: "Measure twice, cut once." Lately I've been saying to myself--"Listen twice, speak once." =:)

    • wrenfrost56 profile image


      8 years ago from U.K.

      Great hub winsome and so true, got me thinking about my own listening skills.

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      SFB, Yes we try to fix things that aren't broken and miss the things that are broken and even when we hear it, we sometimes say exactly the wrong thing. In the next installment, "When it's Time to Speak," I'll share the lessons my foot in mouth taught me. =:)

    • sunflowerbucky profile image


      8 years ago from Small Town, USA

      I love this hub! So very true, men do like to fix and all people, men and women alike, are pretty bad at listening!

    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Much gratitude Sage, distilling the nuts and bolts of a hub into prose is the most satisfying thing for me. So glad you appreciated it.

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 

      8 years ago

      So beautifully written, defining the meaning of the word listening. A very simple process, that so many never really understand.

      Great job on this hub, absolutely love your poem.


    • Winsome profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thanks Tony, one of the hardest things for this writer is to turn it off, put the notebook away and just experience. Blessings.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent! Listening properly, as Carl Rogers said, is one of the most profound and meaningful things a person can do for another. I love the quote from RD Laing: "I know you believe you understand what you think you heard. I'm not sure that what you heard is what I meant."

      Thanks for this interesting Hub.

      Love and peace



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