This week, we’re sharing our first episode in the Conflicts series and we’re talking about the importance of listening. We live in a world where, often, loud voices prevail. We want to get our points across, convince, explain, and control. But when it comes to our relationships, it’s only through really listening that we learn about one another. Listening with openness and curiosity can improve our conversations, lessen conflicts, and strengthen our relationships.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. Join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
1. Recall a recent disagreement with your partner or a close friend. Did you find yourself immediately feeling defensive? Was it hard to fully listen to what they were saying? What was going through your mind?
2. How does it feel when someone takes the time to really listen to you? When that happens, do you feel more open to listening to them? How do things unfold from there?
3. Have you noticed that you are more apt to take your partner or child’s upset words or actions personally? How do you think that impacts the discussion that follows? Do similar conflicts seem to happen over and over?
ANNA: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast. We’re so happy you’re here exploring relationships with us, who we are in them, out of them, and what it means for how we move through the world.
So, if you’re new to the podcast, we encourage you to go back and listen to the earlier episodes. We started with some really foundational relationship ideas and have really been enjoying how they’re building on one another. And if you’ve already been enjoying the podcast, we’d love it if you could leave a rating and a review wherever you listen. That definitely helps new people find us.
So, we’ve finished our foundation series of episodes and now we’ll be rotating through three new series and they’re going to be Conflicts, Parenting, and Relationship Tools. Today’s episode is the first in the conflict series and we’re going to talk about the importance of listening.
We live in a world where, often, loud voices prevail. We want to get our points across, convince, explain, control. But when it comes to our relationships, it’s only through really listening that we learn about one another. And through that learning, we start to understand motivations and perspectives. I would say that 95% of conflicts I see between couples or really, people in general, stem from one person taking the actions or words of another personally and then reacting from that place. And we’ve talked before about the importance of remaining open and curious and in practice, that involves a lot of listening.
PAM: Really. It does so much. And for me, it harks back to what we talked about in episode three. People are different.
While my perspective feels like the right take on a given situation, remembering that people really are different helps me, as you said, be open to other possibilities and get curious to learn more about how the other person is just seeing things. And to do that, I need to really listen to what they’re saying. And pulling back another layer on that to really hear the nuances of what they’re sharing. I need to shift to being open, to taking in their words. And that’s where getting curious takes me.
I may well still think that my perspective is the right one, but if I can make that little shift to being curious about how they’re seeing things and how they got there, I can open up enough to hear what they’re trying to say. Because if I don’t manage that, if I try to listen while staying stuck in my perspective, there’s a good chance that the only pieces I’m going to hear, that I’m going to be taking in from their words, are those that connect to my perspective. So, I’m thinking, how does that fit with how I’m seeing things? How can I use what they’re saying to convince them that I’m right?
ANNA: Yes. But the thing is, we aren’t going to learn more about how they’re seeing the situation if we’re always putting it through our filter and to go with our argument. This maybe goes back to our confirmation bias, and things we were talking about a couple episodes.
The first step, I feel, to really listening, is to let go of that need to defend or explain our position. That can happen later. So, you don’t have to let go of your beliefs to really hear another person and I really feel like that’s where we get stuck. “If I’m listening and not defending, does that mean I’m agreeing?” We’re kinda like, “Hmm, I don’t know how that feels.” But it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about listening to understand the situation through the other person’s eyes, because without that understanding, we just get stuck in a standoff, each defending our vision of what the situation is.
And we just want so much more than that from our close relationships. And I feel like quieting our thoughts is key to really listening. So often, we’re formulating our response in our head and just like you were saying, looking for those pieces we can pull out that works with our story and the other person’s talking and we’re not listening at all, because we’re just looking for those little keywords to put into our argument. But what we’re missing is this critical information to understand the situation and the person in front of us.
And I think that remembering there’s plenty of time can also help here, too, because this isn’t a race, right? If we can just drop any sense of urgency about getting our point across, it can help leave space for being open and curious. And the person that we’re talking to will sense it. Just that shift alone will change the energy of the exchange.
PAM: Oh, absolutely. The whole energy of the conversation shifts just when I’m open to new possibilities and perspectives, when I’m up for trying to see things through their eyes and check out episode four to dive more into that as a foundational relationship tool.
To reiterate what you said, Anna, because I think it is such a common sticking point, listening attentively to the other person rather than immediately jumping in to argue my point doesn’t mean that I’m conceding that they’re right and I’m wrong. Productively navigating conflicts is so much bigger than deciding who’s right and who’s wrong, and listening is at the core of doing it well.
Because there are always going to be conflicts, right? It’s not about trying to get to a place in a relationship where there are no conflicts. We’re different people and sometimes we’re going to see things differently. So rather, it’s about gaining experience with tools that help us move through conflict with more grace and compassion for the other person and for ourselves. That helps us avoid the standoffs that can do so much damage to our relationships.
ANNA: Right, exactly. Because there absolutely are going to be times when we aren’t seeing things the same and that makes sense. That’s okay. That’s just part of life and being involved with humans, you know? But we do have a choice about how those times play out.
Is it a chance to learn more about one another? Or does it become the screaming match or the rupture that takes time and so much energy to find our connection again? I really do believe and have seen we can remain connected through disagreements, by being open and curious and truly wanting to understand our partner or child. They will sense that and we’ll feel the difference as well.
And so, one of the next pieces I want to talk about here is learning how to reflect back what you’re hearing for clarity. And this serves a couple different purposes. First, you’re making sure that you’re really hearing the intent behind what’s being said, because sometimes as words come through our filter, we can twist it to things that maybe aren’t actually there. And so, it gives that person an opportunity to hear that and also shows the person that we’re listening and that we want to understand. I actually like to specifically say, “I really do want to understand,” just with earnestness, so that they know that even though I may be taking a minute to get it, I am committed to understanding. And it just sets a tone and can just bring down that activated energy. And this part I feel like gets easier as trust is built, a trust that, at our core, as people who care about one another, we want to understand each other and we’re in this together.
And I think it can also give information to your partner about how they’re coming across, how what they are saying is landing, but it happens in a way that feels a lot less confrontational and in an environment of learning more about one another versus this accusing, blaming, “You’re saying this,” kind of thing that it can so often devolve into.
And so, it might sound something like, “I can see how hurt you were when I didn’t make it to your show,” and here you might want to go into the reasons you didn’t make it to the show, but don’t. Just let them have their emotional experience, really hear them. And after a reflective statement, let them fine tune their message. Even if you get it right, they may want to go deeper, they may want to clarify.
And all of this goes hand in hand with validation, which we’re going to talk about in depth in an upcoming episode. But even just truly hearing somebody is validating and shows that you’re engaged and care.
And again, during this active reflective listening stage, it’s not the time to defend or explain. That’s just going to keep the person feeling like they have to defend and explain longer. And so, then we have the battle of who can defend and explain the longest. There’s going to be time for you to be heard, but taking this time now to listen will make all the difference in avoiding or deepening a rupture.
PAM: Oh my goodness. Yes. Taking the time to listen and reflect what you’re hearing hits so many valuable relationship notes, like just giving it space, back to that urgency piece you mentioned before.
So, as you mentioned first, and it may seem obvious, listening truly does help the other person feel heard. And giving that space after reflection helps them move through their processing. They’re learning more about themselves as they hear it back. It’s like, yeah, does that land exactly how I meant it? Or what’s a little bit deeper? So, just take a moment to think about what that feels like, for somebody to feel heard. Imagine your partner or your friend attentively listening to what you are saying to them. They’re really seeing who you are in that moment and fully trusting you that it’s your truth. They get it.
Now, when I imagine that, my body actually physically relaxes and I find myself taking a deep healing breath. I want to listen to the people I care about in a way that helps them feel that. And next, taking turns to reflect back what we’re hearing helps both of us just hone in on what’s really going on for each of us.
I know for me, navigating conflicts can sometimes be about peeling back the layers around why I’m feeling conflicted. So, maybe at first all I can really say is that hurt my feelings. But as the conversation continues, as I listen to what they’re sharing, as I contemplate that and try to put my perspective into words, I may be able to share that hurt my feelings because of x. Then maybe I connect it to an experience in my past that I notice being triggered by what’s going on.
As we each hone in on the fuller context of what this conflict is triggering for each of us, we learn more about them and about ourselves. And that is information that can help us approach things differently next time, so they’re less likely to provoke conflict in the first place.
So, engaging in this process of listening and reflecting while we’re navigating conflict helps us eventually emerge with a deeper understanding of each other, strengthening our connection and growing our trust in one another.
ANNA: And as I mentioned earlier, this really does get easier the more you do it, because there will be this growing trust that there’s space for everyone to be seen and heard. And this is the environment that we want to cultivate, an environment where there is this deep trust and safety because as we keep saying, everyone is so different. This type of environment leaves room for that.
And because we aren’t taking other people’s actions or feelings personally, we’re able to listen and learn more, which is then forging these deeper connections. Connections that make weathering these ups and downs and all the things that life brings so much easier and much more enjoyable as well.
PAM: Yes, and I think another piece that we’re learning as we’re building that connection is we’re learning our language. How we express things, how we can express things that other people can understand. The kind of language other people use and what it means to them. We are learning so much.
So, as we share examples about the way we might express something, that’s the way we would express it. There may be different words that you would choose to express these thoughts and ideas for yourself. But that is what these conversations help, this listening to hear the words and what they’re actually saying and what they’re meaning by it, what the intent is and how they’re receiving it and reflecting back. As you say, this is how we’re cultivating and growing that connection and trust and learning the tools and the ways that we, whether it’s we and our partner, close friends, children, the way that we can navigate, because it can look different for each of those too, right?
ANNA: It will. It really will, but I think, again, you can feel the energy difference of, hey, we’re going to have disagreements or not see things the same way, but we’re here to learn more about each other.
It’s not about blaming or any of these pieces. And, like you said, that reflective piece allows us to understand how we’re coming across. It allows them to understand how they’re coming across to us. It helps all of us just understand, hey, some of this language that may be my go-to isn’t landing well, or some things that were fine in my family of origin do not work in this other relationship. Or again, from child to parent to friend to whatever, it’s all going to be different. But if we keep that energy of learning, of just being in this together and, hey, we’re a team, we’re going to figure this out, it’s so different than this competitive, win/loss attitude that’s so prevalent in our culture.
So, it’s very different. And yet I feel like while it sounds like a big shift, I don’t know that it’s that hard, because we all want to be seen and heard, so it just helps feed itself on how much easier it is and how much better it feels.
PAM: Absolutely. I love that.
ANNA: All right, so we are going to end with some questions to consider. The first one. Recall a recent disagreement with your partner or close friend. Did you find yourself immediately feeling defensive? Was it hard to fully listen to what they were saying? And what was going through your mind and even your body sensations? What were you feeling? Because that’s really important sometimes. And like you said, when we give space for that, we can feel that relaxing. And if we don’t, that amped up, activated energy really impacts the discussion.
PAM: And seeing in that question, it’s just our ourself doing the processing. We’re going out to anybody else, so we can play with all those different things. If you didn’t feel you were defensive, then maybe you want to ask yourself, well, what would reacting or feeling defensive look like? And then you could say, oh, well maybe I was saying those things, maybe it was being taken that way, et cetera.
So, yeah. It is so fun and interesting just to ask ourselves questions and play around with how we’re feeling.
ANNA: Right. Yeah, I love that. Okay, so number two, how does it feel when someone takes the time to really listen to you? When that happens, do you feel more open to listening to them? How do things unfold from there? So, again, this is just a walk through some scenarios and feel that energetic difference. Feel how different it feels in your body, these two types of exchanges.
PAM: Yeah. It makes such a big difference. Because I feel like our feelings, how it feels in our body is often maybe the first thing that we notice. And so, now it takes us into noticing that ahead of time so that, if we’re starting to tense up in a conflict type situation, then it’s like, oh, oh, something’s going on here and I can go back to the conversations I’ve had before and notice just a little bit more quickly maybe when I’m feeling defensive.
ANNA: Yes. So important, because we’re going to get those first clues before it actually really starts to unravel, so we can start looking for that.
Okay. And our last question is, have you noticed that you are more apt to take your partner or your child’s upset words or actions personally? How do you think that impacts the discussion that follows?
Do similar conflicts seem to happen over and over? And this is just going to be so critical, because that piece of taking it personally, number one, it is really where everything derails, but it’s super discounting to the other person, too, because they’re trying to explain something to us that’s going on with them, and then if we make it about us, then suddenly they’re either having to like, oh, you know, you’re okay, or, I didn’t mean this, or whatever.
But we’re losing that exchange about what’s actually happening and it really does create a rupture. So like really looking at, am I taking this personally? And what could I do differently? Maybe ask some questions. Maybe just pause and let that wash over and really hear what they’re saying.
PAM: I love that, because when we take it personally, we so often make it about us and then it moves in a completely different direction at that point, which leads to that question we were asking about whether these similar conflicts seem to happen over and over, because that is an amazing clue that, oh, there is more processing to be done here.
ANNA: Exactly. Because we’re not getting to their thing. We’re not even getting to why it’s being brought up, because then we’re shifting it to be about us, or it’s an attack, or we’re getting defensive.
We’re not getting to that listening stage. And I think that’s really important to point out before we go too. The purpose or the side benefit about this process is you don’t keep repeating the same issues. You’re going to have new ones and different things, but there will be tweaks and deepening and more understanding of each other, because we are hearing each other through those times. So, we’re really understanding it. So, it’s not needing to keep bubbling up or we’re not needing to get louder because we weren’t heard. And so, yeah, I think there are so many benefits to digging into this a little bit more.
PAM: Yeah. And noticing the overall pattern. As you said, we may be tweaking. And then the next time it comes up a little bit differently and a little bit differently. But if we look back over time, we might notice some patterns in there that tell us, oh, there’s something over here. Because there are layers and layers and layers of all this. Oh, yes. And listening is what helps us move through it.
ANNA: Yes. Thank you so much everyone for being here with us today, and we will see you next time. Bye-bye.
PAM: Bye, everybody.