Apr 26

How to Listen Better: Experts, Opinions, and Quotes

Below is advice from two contemporary books that tout learning how to listen better, plus info about the use of active listening and some humorous quotes.

I. You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters (2020) by Kate Murphy

One major reason we should listen to each other is that it connects us more closely with others, a phenomenon sorely lacking in society these days.

So, then, how do we learn to listen better? It is, after all, an acquired skill. Kirkus Reviews:

During a conversation, ‘you make yourself aware of and acknowledge distractions, then return to focus…She points out that one of the primary obstacles to listening is the assumption that we know what someone is going to say, which means, unfortunately, that we’re least likely to pay attention to the people closest to us, including spouses, children, and friends.

From an interview with the author on her Amazon page, here’s some helpful advice about curbing this tendency toward half-hearted listening:

A better response will come to you when you have taken in all that the other person has to say. Then, pause if you need to after the other person concludes to think about what you want to say. And if you’re still at a loss, it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ You can also say, ‘I’d like to think about that,’ which conveys that you’re honoring what the other person said by taking time to think about it, while, at the same time, honoring that part of you that is uncertain or anxious and needs time to process. Better that, than responding in a way that is insensitive or misses the point.

II. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (2016) by Krista Tippett

One key way to get wisdom? As stated to Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Huffington Post: “Start with the attention you give to the words you speak…A corollary is (that) we become wise by asking better questions and being listeners, as well as speakers. As I say, generous listening is not about being quiet, it’s about being present. So there’s something about wisdom that knows the power of words and also knows the power of presence and of knowing when to speak is not the right thing.”

III. Active Listening

Neuroscientist Robert K. Cooper, co-author of Executive E.Q.“Many ‘active listening’ seminars are, in actuality, little more than a shallow theatrical exercise in appearing like you’re paying attention to another person. The requirements: Lean forward, make eye contact, nod, grunt, or murmur to demonstrate you’re awake and paying attention, and paraphrase something back every 30 seconds or so. As one executive I know wryly observed, many inhabitants of the local zoo could be trained to go through these motions, minus the paraphrasing.”

John Gottman, a marriage researcher, similarly pooh-poohs active listening. Although he once thought it worked, he eventually concluded his clients weren’t really helped by it.

In an interview with Randall C. Wyatt on psychotherapy.net, Gottman explained that the concept works better in therapeutic dialogue than in real-life dialogue. The difference? In therapy “…the client is paying, the therapist isn’t paying. Usually the client is complaining about somebody else, so it’s very easy for the therapist to say: ‘Oh, that’s terrible what you have to put up with, your mother is awful, or your husband, or whatever it is. I really understand how you feel.'”

IV . Humorous Quotes About Listening 

Fran Lebowitz, humorist: “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”

Mark Twain, writer: “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.”

Robert McCloskey, author: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

Feb 11

Romantic Love: Craziness, Infatuation, and Limerence

Romantic love. Things begin and get more and more exciting—crazy even. Just ask an expert:

One is very crazy when in love.
Sigmund Freud

And another social observer:

Romantic love is mental illness. But it’s a pleasurable one. It’s a drug. It distorts reality, and that’s the point of it. It would be impossible to fall in love with someone that you really saw.
Fran Lebowitz

The late psychologist Dorothy Tennov, in her often-quoted book on love published in 1979, coined this feeling “limerence.” Less clinical terms are also used, of course. On Oprah. com, Valerie Frankel: “Lay terms for limerence: romantic love, crazy love, lovesick, mad love, amour fort. You see a theme in the words crazy, sick, and mad. In this condition, one’s body drugs itself mightily with hormones that create a feeling of joy. The rapture is balanced with the panic and dread that it could end. And it will. Limerence has a shelf life.”

Psychiatrist David Sack, The Huffington Post, points out a synonym I hadn’t heard of, “affection deficit disorder,” and elaborates further on the topic of limerence:

Some call limerence infatuation, lovesickness, or romantic love, while others relate it to love addiction. Some have humorously called it affection deficit disorder. Albert Wakin, an expert on limerence and a professor of psychology at Sacred Heart University, defines limerence as a combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction, a state of ‘compulsory longing for another person.’ He estimates that five percent of the population struggles with limerence…

“Struggles” with limerence. As when it hurts not in a good way and goes on seemingly forever instead of the 18 months to two or three years often quoted by the experts. If it does last a really long time, there’s probably something more pathological going on. This kind of fixation may lead, for example, to stalking behavior.

Some people, on the other hand, don’t ever enter the limerent state.

And some people studying this topic don’t see infatuation and limerence as the same thing, with the former being positive and bearable, the latter a more troublesome condition.

So, what causes limerence? Read on if you like details about brain-related stuff. Victoria Fletcher, Daily Mail, explains in clear language:

Studies have shown brain chemical dopamine is at higher levels in those in love. Dopamine is key to our experiences of pleasure and pain, linked to desire, addiction, euphoria, and a surge may cause such acute feelings of reward that it makes love hard to give up.

Tests show that taking opioid drugs such as cocaine have a similar effect on dopamine as love.

A side effect of rising dopamine levels is a reduction in another chemical, serotonin, a key hormone in our moods and appetite.

Serotonin levels may fall in a similar way to those seen in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, explaining why love can make us feel anxious and jittery.

The love chemical we are most familiar with is adrenaline. This hormone is why our heart races, palms sweat and mouth goes dry when we see the person we like.

The same hormone is also released when we are frightened. This means that two people only vaguely attracted to one another can fall madly in love if they go through an exciting or scary experience together. It may also explain the lure of forbidden love.

Despite the “craziness” of it all, and despite efforts on the part of some limerence researchers, the upcoming DSM-5 does not appear to be including it as a diagnostic category. More studies are needed.

You’d be crazy not to sign up…or to sign up?