Beyond Ordinary Listening

This article originally appeared on the Support4Change website, and is reposted here.

By Joyce Vissell
Reprinted with permission.

Learn how to communicate so fully that your partner can’t help but pay attention and listen to every word.

The art of listening is very important in life and essential in any relationship. Being able to listen carefully assures that valuable communication is passed between two people. Some communication is so riveting that we can’t help but pay attention and listen to every word.

But what about the communications that do not capture our attention fully. These are slower communications that do not pull you right in and perhaps are harder to keep your focus. It is during these times when you can “listen-plus.”

What is “listening-plus”? Though I just made up the name for this article, I have been practicing this technique for many years and it has brought me much joy. “Listening-plus” employs the heart as well as the ears and mind.

More than simply listening and communicating, it establishes a soul connection, sometimes without the other person even knowing what you are doing.

I first started listening-plus with my dad. As a father and daughter, we loved each other very much. However, we didn’t have that much in common at the time I started this practice. I was a young mother with two small children and besides my family, my greatest area of interest was my spiritual path. I wanted to talk about meditation, yoga, religion and how to integrate my emotions and feelings into my spiritual path.

My dad was a college engineering professor. His greatest interest, besides his family, were the repairs he was making on his home. At the time, we didn’t own a home or have any interest in owning one or making repairs on one. I tried talking to my dad about my spiritual path but it didn’t go over very well.

A committed member of his church, he was well-loved and respected and was in charge of most of the church repairs. He just couldn’t understand what I was doing. I knew it was strange to him so I didn’t press the issue.

Living 3,000 miles apart, we made the most of the visits we had with each other twice a year. My dad and I had a tradition of going out for lunch, just the two of us, each visit. We’d always begin by talking about the girls and all the cute things they were doing.

When we finished with that topic the conversation would shift to the house repairs he was doing on his home or the ones he was planning. It was during one of these lunches that “listening-plus” was invented in my heart.

I saw how much my dad wanted to tell me about his house repairs. He would get so excited and explain in detail the various wall papers he was looking at, plumbing fixtures or whatever was planned. I began just listening fully and to keep my attention totally with him I added the “plus.”

As he would be talking, I’d feel how much I loved this dear man and how much he had cared for me as a child. I’d feel the soul connection that is so strong between us. I’d look into his eyes and feel his warmth, notice his smile and the way his eyes twinkled. All the while I was fully listening to the various lumber parts he needed, how long he estimated it would take him and the different tools he would need to build or repair a particular thing.

My dad would get happier and happier because he was feeling the connection between the two of us. The absolute truth is that I loved these times with my dad and would feel so much joy over our connection. When it was time to leave my dad would reach out and squeeze my hand and say, “We sure know how to have a good time together.” And I would agree, because I loved feeling that closeness with him.

What two people need more than anything else is the feeling of connecting and the flow of love from heart to heart. If I would have said to my dad, “Now we are going to sit and look into each other’s eyes and feel our soul connection,” he would have thought I was going crazy and would have worried about me. My father never really knew that I had added the “plus,” but he felt the connection and it made us both happy.

Now my dad has passed on and there will be no more lunches or hearing about house repairs. But because I practiced the “plus” in listening I can feel our connection just as strong as when we were sitting in the restaurant together.

I encourage you to practice “listening-plus” with those you love. It will bless your life as well as theirs and deepen your relationship with them. Besides, it is really a lot of fun and makes listening much more exciting.

© Copyright The Shared Heart Foundation. Reprinted with permission.
From The Shared Heart Column on New Dimensions of Relationships, April 2002

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