Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to love, appreciate and cherish our most significant relationships. This year consider an alternative to the traditional flowers, candy or love note and opt for a more meaningful way to show your love. For this we look to the largest predictor of relationship success; kindness. According to relationship expert John Gottman, if you want connectivity, mutual affinity, care, passion, trust, longevity and respect then you must choose to be kind. Being kind to your partners, friends and family is a truly authentic way to love someone. It shows that others are worth your time, energy and presence.
Listen to be Kind
One of the kindest things we can do for people we love and care about is to listen to them. We are talking about the type of listening that shows genuine interest, authentic care and depth of understanding. When we listen at this level we give our full presence and attention to the other person. This activates our hardwired ability to bond and connect deeply. We in essence attune to each other like tuning forks coming into resonance.
Listen for Emotional Connection
Whatever the communication challenge, at a foundational level people simply want to know their feelings are understood. Listening with the authentic intention to understand can eradicate many of the issues couples face daily. According to Gottman, couples headed for a break-up miss their partners attempts for emotional connection 50% to 80% of the time as compared to 15% to 20% from couples in more stable relationships. When you listen you become acutely aware of your partners intentions for connection.
Steps to Listen Effectively
- When you are connecting with others ask yourself, ‘What is the feeling this person is trying to convey in their communication?’
- Listen beyond the details or the facts and connect with the feeling. When you are present to what another is feeling with a willingness to understand, you demonstrate a desire to be connected. This is foundational to a healthy relationship. Said in another way, you are now in your heart vs. in your head.
- Allow yourself to connect with that person on an emotional level. After you identify what you believe the other person is feeling let them know you heard them by repeating back the feeling.
- ‘I hear that you are feeling ________ about ____________. Is that right?’
- Put yourself in their shoes and find any element of what they are sharing that you do understand or can empathize with. Share that understanding with them.
- If you have challenging relationships in your life consider giving some room for others to be less than perfect. Relationship tension can be soothed with compassion. You might repeat the following affirmation to center your mind on compassion, ‘Just like me this person desires to be loved and cared for, has hopes and dreams and is doing their best to get their needs met.’
On Valentine’s Day deepen your love connection with that special someone by asking emotionally meaningful questions such as;
- What is most important to you in your life right now?
- What are your dreams and how can I support you to accomplish them?
- How can I show you my love more fully?
- Is there any way I can support you better?
- What inspires you in your life today?
Any time you bring the conversation to an emotional level you deepen the opportunity for connection. Studies show that time spent in emotionally meaningful conversations not only builds strong bonds of trust in relationships but also increases personal happiness. May this Valentines Day (and every day) be a time you choose kindness to show your love. May you engage in deep conversation and feel the afterglow of loving connection.
Hilary Stokes Ph.D. and Kim Ward Ph.D. have been a team for 20 years, specializing in mind, body, spirit psychology. They are the authors of the bestselling books The Happy Map: Your roadmap to the habit of happiness and Manifesting Mindset: The 6-step formula for attracting your goals and dreams and founders of Authenticity Associates Coaching and Counseling. They are passionate about combining the best of holistic and traditional approaches to health and happiness.