Listen or Be Alone



couple refusing to listen to each other“When we stop listening to the other person in a relationship, we’re no longer in relationship with them.  We are by ourselves in a room with another person.”
~Brooks Palmer, from his book “Clutter Busting Your Life

According to Brooks Palmer, listening means really hearing what the person is trying to say or trying to protect.

It does not mean hearing the other person only when they say what you want or expect them to say.

Listening does not mean waiting impatiently for them to stop talking so you can correct them or trump them with what you want to say.

It does not mean pretending to listen while you really watch TV, send text messages, or make grocery lists in your mind.

How to Listen

Listening does mean being vulnerable to hearing a perspective that is different from what you want or expect.

It does mean listening deeper than words and realizing that anger (in all its forms, including sarcasm, bitterness, and resentfulness) is really protecting something – some pain or fear.

It does mean letting the other person have their own opinion and further it means listening to that opinion with curiosity and non-judgement.

Learning how to listen better also means looking at your own interactions and recognizing when you are protecting some pain or fear or confusion by being angry or, by being bitter or critical or caustic … or just plain bitchy.

It even means not being plastic polite or distant or even pretending to be agreeable just to avoid a disagreement or unpleasant talk.

It means always adjusting back to the truth, back to the reality of matter, back to the core.

It means being willing to risk having hurt feelings, uncomfortable feelings, and confusion just for the sake of really hearing, really making the effort to connect.

It means letting go of any intentions to change the other person.


When you learn how to listen better in a relationship, it will sometimes feel risky, confusing, or painful, but it will bring a much deeper and more truthful connection.  Isolation is replaced with respect, curiosity, new perspectives, and love.

A Listening Experiment

Habits must be consciously changed and it may take some work to learn to listen to your loved one.   Try starting with one 15-30 minute section each day where you  try to say as little as possible while listening fully as much as possible.  Make an effort to observe, understand, and be completely without judgement for those few minutes.  You can even make a game of it and listen as though your loved one is someone you just met and want to get to know better.

It pays to listen.  Sometimes you learn things.

Are you listening?


Image courtesy of and David Castillo Dominici.



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One Response to “Listen or Be Alone”

  1. Jack Says:

    Yeah, being alone is great.


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