Listening Skills & Relationships: Breaking the Golden Rule

The expression ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ is one of those old sayings of kindness used as a North Star for listening skills in relationships everywhere. You probably heard it on the playground when you were small, you probably hear it now from friends and co- workers, and there is good reason it has been around forever.

This idea is packed with good intentions, is easy to remember and relatively easy to enforce. Treat others the way you want to be treated feels natural—after all, we spend so much time with ourselves, we know precisely how we’d like to be treated. The irony of this approach to relationships is that the way we want to be treated has absolutely nothing to do with the person we are interacting with. In fact, it’s quite likely that we are ignoring that person completely.

Listening Skills & Communication

Research has shown that this golden rule of relationships is actually counterintuitive to true connection. If we are so concerned about how we wish to be treated and are replicating that behavior, we are essentially ignoring all of the verbal, physical, and emotional cues from the person we are interacting with.

It is very possible that by enforcing this golden rule we are, in fact, missing opportunities for connection through accidental self-assertion. We want to connect with each other. We are biologically hard wired for it; we need it to survive. We search for connection and stories everywhere, from the shape of the clouds to our dog’s inner monologue. We are endlessly searching to assign value with the world so that we can feel connected to something. So why do we feel so disconnected?

Perhaps because we are treating others how we want to be treated instead of developing our listening skills and paying attention to their needs.

listening skills
Mary Rogers is a holistic wellness coach with over twenty years of acting experience. Her work in personal wellness spans many forms including chakra work, energy healing, Alexander technique, leadership training, executive coaching, fitness, dance, talk therapy, and emotional release. She is based in New York City.

So how do you pay attention to someone else’s needs?

You listen.

How do you do that?

You spark a romance with silence, and then invite her into every interaction.

Silence & Solitude

My romance with silence takes many forms, from allowing pause to infuse into my conversations, to walking in the yard and smiling at the sun, to something as simple as not reacting to the ding on my phone. By falling in love with silence, I have been able to naturally reconfigure my body’s internal ecosystem simply by being unafraid of what the pause brings. When we are silent with ourselves, we start to hear all of the activity going on in our minds.

We start to see how the inner monologue never takes a lunch break and our anxieties and insecurities are using our hearts for storage. Once you begin to court with silence, all of that unnecessary mental activity comes to the surface. When you are able to enjoy silence’s company, your stress hormones relax and your chatter begins to fade.

listening skills
The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze, Gustav Klimt, 1909.

Know Thyself

When you really fall in love with silence you are able to hear what you need. Learning to really listen to yourself is perfect training for listening to another, and true listening is the foundation for connection. Once I started living with this awareness, I began to see how much excess energy I had been throwing away in interactions. I realized that I was treating others how I wanted to be treated, and that was met with resistance.

Of course it was, because I was acting like they were another version of me. By inviting silence into my daily life I have realized I can meet my own needs on my own time. I am no longer hoping the person I am speaking to will be the answer in some way, and with this grand hope diminished I am able to experience each person as they are.

People are fascinating and they will tell you everything about themselves if you give them the space to. You can get truly connected to another if only you are available to listen. Are you? When we get connected to ourselves, the world opens up. When we are connected, we can form deep love, and where that love grows, everything follows.

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