By Chandrama Anderson
E-mail Chandrama Anderson
About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ... (More)
About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background in high-tech is helpful in understanding local couples' dynamics and the pressures of living here. I am a wife, mom, sister, friend, author, and lifelong advocate for causes I believe in (such as marriage equality). My parents are both deceased. My son graduated culinary school and is heading toward a degree in Sociology. I enjoy reading, hiking, water fitness, movies, 49ers and Stanford football, Giants baseball, and riding a tandem bike with my husband. I love the beach and mountains; nature is my place of restoration. In my work with couples, and in this blog, I combine knowledge from many fields to bring you my best ideas, tips, tools and skills, plus book and movie reviews, and musings to help you be your genuine self, find your own voice, and have a happy and healthy relationship. Don't be surprised to hear about brain research and business skills, self-soothing techniques from all walks of life, suggestions and experiments, and anything that lights my passion for couples. (Author and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Calif. Lic # MFC 45204.) (Hide)
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Some years ago I went to Costa Mesa, CA to The Compassionate Friends International Conference to give a talk: Thriving as a Couple After your Child Dies. While passing around my handout, I heard a man say, “‘Active Listening,’ hrmph,” or words to that effect.
I’ve been thinking about what he may have meant. In our house, we have a joke, “I hear your words.” It means I heard the words you said, but I do not agree. We say this when chocolate is dissed, for example.
What I am hoping to have couples learn is not just to hear the words and be able to repeat them back, but to understand the meaning and importance of those words to his/her partner.
The courageous woman in the couple that volunteered in the workshop said she and her husband speak back and forth, but they don’t have a conversation. I asked her what that means. She explained that one of them speaks, and when s/he is done the other says what s/he wanted to say. It’s not actually a conversation, she said. They are not responding to each other.
So while it is true that the first part is active listening, it has to go beyond that. For example, if you say you don’t like it when s/he is looking somewhere else when you are talking, and s/he says back, “You don’t like it when I am looking somewhere else when you are talking,” the words have been received, as in, “I hear your words.”
The next part has to go beyond knowing the words your partner said into understanding, caring, empathy and meaning. You might ask things such as: “What does it mean to you that I am looking elsewhere?” or “How does that feel in your body?” or “What is most important in what you’re telling me?”
To move beyond active listening to connection (which is what you are biologically wired to long for), you must listen not just with your ears, but your whole body, your eyes, and your intention so s/he is sure to be heard — deeply heard and understood.