In the late 50's, Carl Rogers, a well-known psychologist,
wrote about three essential attitudes in therapeutic listening:
"empathic understanding," "unconditional positive regard,"
and "genuineness." This active listening approach is the
centerpiece of the Stop, Look, and Listen Lovetool and has
been used by therapists for years. It has been referred
to as "reflective listening," "mirroring," "intentional
listening," "empathic listening," among others.
Although there is much about this exercise that is not
new, its importance in heart-to-heart communication merits
repeating. Read them, practice them, and watch your intimacy
grow from ordinary to extraordinary.
- Listening involves hearing. If you're thinking about
what you're going to say next, you're not hearing your
partner and you're not listening.
- Communication must be from the personal "I" perspective.
If you begin sentences with "you always" or "you never"
it encourages a defensive or reactive response.
- Sex is a way of communicating with each other. People
who listen empathetically to their partners, and give
clear messages to their partners are on their way to becoming
- There are no right or wrong feelings. If one of you
laughs during a particular movie and the other doesn't,
who was "right?" You've probably heard someone say, "Why
are you laughing. It's not funny." Feelings vary and reflect
your personal reality. Each reality must be respected.
When you deny another's feelings, it's natural for them
to feel slighted and unimportant.
Stop, Look, and Listen... How
1. The first thing to
do when you're involved in a reactive battle is to Stop.
This is by far the hardest of all three steps. Each person
wants to get his point across and stopping is a challenge.
2. Then one of you starts
as the sharer while the other is the listener. Look at your
partner. (Don't do this in the car. The car is a terrible
place for intimate dialogues. People incorrectly assume
they have several hours of time in a car and can use it
productively. It rarely works to build intimacy. The reason
for this is you can't look at each other. You also can't
have intimate conversations when one person is looking at
the television. Shut off the television. Unplug the telephone
or turn on your answering machine. Pull up a couple of chairs
and look at each other.)
3. Focus on one subject.
If you let one topic snowball into another, the exercise
4. The next step is to
Listen. This means to listen to the actual words and to
your partner's feelings. Not what you think the other person
is saying or feeling. Listen to the meaning of the words
from their perspective. Try to put yourself in your partner's
position as you listen. This is called enabling empathy
and it's easier said than done, I assure you. It's very
hard to listen to someone telling you something you'd rather
not hear about yourself and to do so empathetically! The
natural tendency is to interrupt, defend, explain, or protect
yourself in some way. But when you deflect the message,
you dilute the intimacy. Instead of thinking about your
reply, say things like, "tell me more," "is there more,"
or "I'd like to hear more about that." Listen attentively
until your partner is done.
5. Repeat what you believe
you heard and how you think they feel. Ask if you're correct
and listen if you're not. When the sharer is done, thank
the listener for listening. The listener also thanks the
sharer for sharing. This is not an easy process. It takes
effort on both sides and deserves an appreciative comment.
Saying thank you is an important part of the intimacy building
(Excerpted from Dr. Scantling's Extraordinary Sex Now:
A Couple's Guide to Intimacy, Doubleday, 1998)
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