Listening with Talking Stick

by Laurie Weinberg
Listening is the highest form of love. When we feel heard and seen by our partner, we feel loved. Many of us were not truly listened to by our parents. We did not feel heard and seen on a deep level. As a result, when we get into an intimate relationship as an adult, the issues of not really feeling heard or seen can rise to the surface again. We can build walls of anger and resentment towards our partner, which only serves to further isolate us and leave us feeling unloved. The issue of listening gets further compounded when there is a “hot” topic in the relationship. Most couples have several topics that if not properly discussed, can leave more walls and more distance between the partners.

A very simple and effective tool to start to build more listening into a relationship is as follows:

Both partners set aside some quiet time when they will not be disturbed by children, the phone or any outside distractions. It is good if both partners write this into their calendars like any other appointment. It is wonderful to start the talk with some deep breathing, or by lighting a candle.........something to help both people get into a state of relative calm.

Place an object in the middle of the partners that can be used as a “talking stick”. This could be a rock, a stick or any object from nature. One of the partners takes the stick. The person holding the stick begins to talk, taking care to own their feelings rather than speaking in an accusatory manner. For example, the speaker would say “I feel hurt whenever I notice you looking at the ceiling when I talk. It makes me feel like you are not really present” as opposed to “you’re not listening. You are a terrible listener. See how you are looking away from me?”..............when the feelings are “owned” the listener is better able to stay present to what is being said without getting into a defensive posture.

The listener does nothing but attentively listen without any interruption until the speaker is complete with what they need to share. This is much more difficult than it sounds. The listener is called upon to act from their most evolved self. That is, the urge to shout, yell or make snippy or cynical remarks of any kind must be resisted. The listener must endeavour to stay neutral. They may get triggered by what the speaker is saying, yet must be able to hold their response until it is their turn to speak.

This goes back and forth until both parties feel heard. There may not be resolution to the “hot” topic. However, resolution is not the point. The point of the exercise is to create more space in the relationship for being heard.

Laurie Weinberg is a spiritual psychotherapist and hypnotherapist with a private practice in Toronto, ON. She truly values and honours the emotional experiences of her clients. She assists them in bringing the layers of the unconscious into the conscious realm so that true healing can begin. Laurie works with individuals, couples and groups.

Laurie Weinberg
Spiritual Psychotherapist / Hypnotherapist

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