"The first duty of love is to listen."
— Paul Tillich
I conducted a marriage retreat a few months ago, and I asked each couple to introduce themselves and state why they had chosen to come to the retreat. I received a variety of answers, but the one reason that was repeated over and over was "we are here to learn to communicate better" That was the need they recognized – that they weren't hearing each other anymore. They weren't feeling understood.
I think that may be a common problem, not just for married couples, but for all of us in whatever relationships we engage – work personal, whatever. How well do we communicate with each other? Often, when we are interacting with others, our attention in both speaking and listening is focused on meeting our own needs.
Our communication skills improve when we can focus in on the needs of the other person. When we really listen, we can release the filters that serve our own needs for security and receive the message with more compassion and understanding. And when we speak, we can choose words that the listener is able to receive. True communication happens when we harmonize with the other individual.
So, when we listen, we have to focus on understanding the needs of the other so that we have complete understanding of what the person is really saying, and with that understanding hopefully come respect, empathy, and compassion... thus Paul Tillich's saying, "The first duty of love is to listen."
page last modified on: 5/15/2013