Sometimes life feels hard. And sure enough, sometimes circumstances are muddy, mucky and real rough. Especially with our closest relationships, things can be intensely challenging.
Sometimes though, we make our own lives more difficult — usually without realizing we’re doing it. Each of us has much more power to influence our lives than we accept.
The good news is that this is changing.
Every time one of us steps up to sharpen our communication skills, we bring more skillfulness and humility to our relationships. And every time that happens, the world becomes a place that is more loving, safe and kind.
Whenever I discover a simple tool that helps bring about this kind of world, I share it. Reflective Listening is a widely known skill in the world of interpersonal communication, coaching and couples therapy. It is exceptionally simple and I’ve detailed it below so you can practice. All humans would benefit from communication classes starting at a young age, with this exercise being practiced starting around age 10.
If you’re in a committed partnership with someone who’s open to learning new things and wants to see the relationship become more fulfilling over time — someone who’s willing to do their part and not just expect things to improve on their own — you are fortunate. Practice with them. I am extremely thankful my husband is willing to use these tools with me. Reflective Listening has been transformative for our our marriage.
Otherwise, ask a good friend or family member to practice with you. It doesn’t have to be deep or intense -- you can talk about ice cream or travel if you want.
For a short taste of what it’s like, you can take 10 minutes, five each, trading places halfway through. For a fuller experience that might be more rewarding, set aside a whole hour and each take 30 minutes. Or, you can have your turn today as Sharer, or Listener, and switch places tomorrow.
Benefits of Reflective Listening often include:
Ready for some of that sweetness?
Reflective Listening: The Basics
Try it, let me know how it goes for you, send me an email if you want to share what worked and what didn't. Be gentle with yourself. Even a simple exercise can be challenging, especially when it has the potential to bring about so many positive changes.
And if you find yourself all jazzed up about the power of Reflective Listening, share this link with a friend who’s struggling in relationship. Or if you have the spirit of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street running through your veins like I do, and being a good friend is enormously important to you in life, call a friend on the phone today and tell them you want to gift them 20 minutes of your time, as Listener in this exercise. Lead them through it.
It feels really, really good to have someone truly listen.
Of the hundreds of people I’ve met and had conversations with, there are probably 10 who I consider to be masterful listeners. To those people, thank you. I’m not there — yet. I am definitely on my way. To all of us who are heading that direction, kudos, it is good to be in your company!
Dear Mr. Rogers,
As the slowness of this holiday sits in the air, you are thick on my mind. I come to my computer to get "work" done yet find there's nothing more worthwhile than watching clips of your old TV show. Your strong, gentle voice, your unabashed reverence for children and simple, profound principles like kindness, compassion and friendship...
Your Emmy acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award has me deep in thought, wondering how I might direct my desire to express love through a medium I struggle with, the TV of our time. Just as you "hated" television (such a strong word for highly sensitive souls like us to use, yet I can relate) and worked to use it as a tool for good, I wonder how I might turn my significant distaste for our cultural mindlessness around smartphone/computers -- a far more complex machines than TVs -- into something as powerful as your show did.
When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s I watched your show every day. You've probably had as much of a parenting imprint on me as my parents. Twenty-two years ago (more than half my life), I stopped watching TV, and I had almost forgotten that my worldview and ways have been significantly shaped by your teachings and your show. It's almost as if I would only be a fraction of the person I am without your imprint on my most formative early childhood years.
The way you captivated this 1969 Senate hearing, luring its leader into a devotee of your simple "expression of care" ... only Love can melt a room like this.
Lately it has become obvious we all have an artist within us, longing to burst out and take center stage. Whether it's frisbee or mountain bike racing, cooking, piano or painting, inside each and every one of us there is at least one place, one experience, where presence and joy hold our attention outside of space and time.
You were born and you died in the sign of Pisces, the sign most associated with artists. I never met you in person, but I wonder what you would have to say about yourself as an artist.
I am convinced my most important work in this life has been, and will increasingly be, related to work like yours: work with a simple, accessible message of care, truthfulness, love and friendship. The kind of work adults may "laugh off" if only for a moment, until someone close to us dies and we remember it's the basis for all good things in a healthy society -- the ethical center that guides how we treat each other.
I admire and love you dearly and forever, and I'm so glad you're on my mind today...
P.S. This song melts me. It's you... I like...
Listen to our free recording for July, a 33-minute interview with Jessica Rios & Mirsad Cindrak, called Perspectives from a Refugee Hairstylist... here.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternally a fan of Fred Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.