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We were college students and newly in love, and one of the early prerequisites to being in a relationship with Richard (my late husband of twenty-five years) came with this statement: “Kris, the one thing I expect from you that is non-negotiable as my girlfriend is to become a world-class listener, and I promise to reciprocate.” At eighteen years of age, I really liked this guy, but honestly, I wasn’t all that clear what he meant by “world-class listening.” However, I heard him loud and clear, and it didn’t seem like that much to ask. Seems so simple, right?

Well, in order to be a world-class listener, you must practice a few things first:

Offer Your Empty Presence

Empty presence is being fully available with no agenda, busy talk going on in your mind, or fingers text messaging or tweeting while someone is asking for your ear. “Empty” suggests that we open ourselves like a container to be filled as we receive the person’s words.

Let the Person Finish the Story Completely—Without Interruption

It’s easy with a spouse or partner or kids you know so well to feel like you want to jump in and finish their sentence or solve their problems quickly. It’s also tempting to have your own agenda involved in their story. Sit back. Instead, offer your open heart and compassion, allowing them to spill out everything they need to say.

Ask Permission to Give Advice by Asking the Question: Would You Like My Opinion, or Would You Like Me to Listen?

This is truly one of the most intuitive questions you can ever ask and does wonders for building rapport with kids—especially teens. When you have permission to offer advice, you are much more likely to be heard rather than have your words fall on deaf ears when venting is really the only objective.

Meet Heart-to-Heart

Listen for the feeling over the content of what is said. It’s so easy to take things personally when your spouse or partner, especially, is speaking to you about something that is bothering him/her. This applies to anyone, but the closer the relationship, the more difficult it can be to communicate what is bothering you, and it’s challenging to sit back and separate your feelings in order to really hear. If you listen to the feeling behind the words, you can bypass hurt feelings and move into a heart-to-heart space of connection where you don’t take things personally. You might just hear what they have to say. There is no higher form of communication than “heart-to-heart.”

There is no greater gift of healing and expression of love that we can offer those special people we care about most, including our life partners, friends, family, co-workers, and community. We need to remember that “Love” is listening, and we all want to be heard.


Kristine Carlson captivated readers worldwide with her first three bestsellers Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in LoveDon’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women and An Hour to Live, An Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever Given of her life with her late husband, Dr. Richard Carlson. In the first new book in the Don’t Sweat series since Richard’s passing, Kristine shares her wisdom with moms, offering tried-and-true advice that will empower them to find greater peace, joy, and harmony within themselves and their homes. Check out the new book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff  for Moms. For more on Kristine, please visit her at her website dontsweatmoms.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

*Photo by highersights.

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