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Einstellung Effects, the Little-Known Cause of Repeated Love Failures

Mini-Love-Lesson #227


Synopsis: Why do some people repeatedly fail at love or at some aspect of love relating?  Here you find out about a rarely known psychological mechanism that accounts for some of those failures; you learn some clever things you can do to see if this applies to you; and then, if it does, what to do about it.


Oh No, Not Again!

First there was Jeffrey who had pretty much the same failed marriage three times with three different women.  All three seemed so different from each other at first.  Then there was Sonya who kept getting psychologically and physically abused by a succession of lovers, each worse than the last.  She was so sure each one would be different than the last but they never were.  After them came Jake and Emma who married and divorced each other three times.  This brings us to Stella and Marco who swore they kept having the same fight over and over but could not find a way to stop and it was getting worse each time.  Lastly there was Katerina who had so many repeated love relationship failures she just gave up on love entirely.  Now she lives depressed and lonely.

At first it might seem that the examples just given are quite dissimilar to each other.  A deeper look shows they are not.  In fact, underlying each of them is a very similar psychological mechanism.  But wait, first let’s look at Victoria and Eva, Martin and Fiona, along with Zandra and Burke who all used to suffer from the same kinds of situations.  However, they all learned something that empowered them to escape their cycles of repeated failures at love relating and go on to fine and thriving love.

With some well-informed counseling, they came to understand they were effected by a little-known, seldom recognized, mental malfunction which prevents some people from choosing new and better solutions.  With that understanding and some help, they were able to work out and try out new solutions and approaches to their love life situations quite successfully.

That psychological mechanism is named the Einstellung Effect after the scientist who discovered it.  Here we are dealing with a relational form of the Einstellung Effect which shows up in a great many areas of human and animal behavior and, therefore, in most branches of psychology and its related fields.

The Basic Way Einstellung Works

A person (or a lab animal) gets used to dealing with a task, situation or problem in a certain way.  We will call that WAY 1.  Then a better way becomes available and/or apparently evident.  We will call that WAY 2.  Occasionally, the person or animal sees and explores WAY 2, even tries out WAY 2 or, at least, gives it a good look over.  Then even if WAY 2 works better than WAY 1 they go back to WAY 1 and keep doing that.  Frequently, the person then rationalizes why they keep choosing WAY 1.  Many do not even perceive the existence of WAY 2. or believe it to be better even when its superior attributes have been clearly pointed out.  While we do not know exactly what the lab animal is thinking, he behaves exactly the same as the person.  It keeps choosing WAY 1. and ignoring WAY 2. even when Way 1. does not work anymore.

Interestingly, there are people and lab animals who do not follow this pattern.  They quickly and often eagerly adopt the new and better ways, and that’s that.  For some people but not others, this is true in their love relationships.  Some people keep rather automatically repeating their love relating failure patterns while ignoring other solutions, and some do not.

Why Do Some Repeat Love Failure and Others Not?

Different branches of psychology and their related fields can posit different answers to this question.  Each of those answers may have some validity and add useful insights.  Addictionologists may say this is a classic relapse pattern and it is just what addictions make happen.  Psychophysiologists suggests that a part of the brain is malfunctioning in some people but not others.  Phenomenologists and perceptual psychologists analyze the first, and/or the early, success a person has which can put that pattern of success to the forefront, and put later possibilities to the background in our perceptual system, thus, hiding new ways from us.

Just like with eyesight, other people can have broader, perceptual ability.  Behavioral psychologists can deduce that some people have been positively reinforced for sticking with early success and others for later success.  Counselors and clinicians may diagnose trauma caused fear and anxiety states to be greater in those reluctant to try the new and different, even to the extent of subconsciously being blinded to the possibilities of trying something different.  Developmentalists could propose that during a early critical period, a love relationship pattern imprinted in some people and not others.  Attachment theories suggest that as young children the WAY 1 people had insecure bonding and the WAY 2 people more secure bonding so, they are more confident and less fearful concerning trying new things.

Now, notice that all the above branches of psychology and their presented possible explanations might be examples of the Einstellung effect itself.  Each school of thought is seeing things in their habituated mindset of what they are used to seeing and are being rather oblivious to the others.  Yet, they all may have value and are worth considering.  So, if one of those concepts above seems to draw your attention more than the others, study it.  Your subconscious may be trying to pull your conscious toward the one to look into the most.  But then again, your subconscious may be blinding you to the others via the Einstellung Effect so study them too.

What to Do about It

With the above you have some background knowledge to work with, so now let’s add some honest, personal, diagnostic self-examination accomplished by answering the following questions and case samples to think with:

1. In love life situations do you keep attempting solutions that never work, or do you keep looking for and trying new and very different approaches that might work?
(Case sample: After years of arguing his very logical points but always losing, Joe learned to do empathetic listening instead of arguing and his love-relating situations finally got happy and successful.)

2. Do you tend to favor and feel safer with established proven solutions, viewpoints and standard ways, while being reluctant and suspicious of untried, experimental and new knowledge-based approaches?
(Case sample: Teresa married and divorced three quite successful, big-city businessmen.  She then met, went off to work for and happily co-habited with an adventuresome, wilderness tour guide who she is still with 10 years later.)

3. In lover’s quarrels or spousal arguments’ do you both find yourselves saying and hearing the same things over and over with the same outcomes and with an increasing sense of futility, and/or with rage and/or desire to escape?  Or do you both make some progress trying new approaches and, by steps, make small improvements, quarrel less and shorter, and see your relationship with a growing, shared joy and encouragement?
(Case sample: Jake and Myrna, on the verge of a breakup, with the help of a couple’s counselor discovered their fighting patterns were the same as a combination of their parent’s fighting patterns, even lasting almost the same amount of time and with the same outcomes their parents had.  At first, they denied all this, then they agreed to attempt some small, new, different behaviors when their fights began.  That helped a bit so they tried some more steps and slowly things kept getting better and new, more loving patterns replace the old.)

4. Do you rather automatically find it hard to consider, be open to and/or appreciate a loved one’s alternative ideas, solutions or approaches to your own?
(Case sample: It was not until Dietrich and Hannah learned and practiced the reflective listening skill of saying back to each other, rather exactly, what the other one had just said that they realized they had never really heard each other accurately.  After that and with some appreciation and affirmation training, things got much better.)

5. Would your loved ones agree with the answer you gave question number 4?

Diagnosis to Treatment

After mulling over the above, do you think you, or whoever you are thinking about, experience repeated love failures that might be influenced by the relational form of the Einstellung Effect?  If so, what are you going to do about it.  Will you let this information sink in, mulling it over some more?  Will you discuss this with trusted friends or family?  Will you talk it over with whoever is personally involved, perhaps using this mini-love-lesson’s information?  Will you individually or jointly make exact, behavioral plans to change?  Will you journal and keep tabs on your efforts to change?  Will you read more about all this? (See “For Failing Love: Avoid, or Convert, or Escape” and “Is Love Ignorance the Problem?”) If needed, will you seek out and rigorously engage in counseling or therapy to make deep, solid improvements?

One More Little Thing

To help your heart fill and fill the other “hearts” in your life, fill your head with love knowledge.  To do that, if you haven’t already, SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE to automatically get our regular mini-love-lessons and, while you’re at it, maybe recommend somebody else to doing the same.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question:   If you want someone you love to quit repeatedly doing something, might you best be willing to trade or just quit repeatedly doing something they don’t like first?

Micro-Love Feelings and Actions for Well-Being


Mini-Love-Lesson  #286


Synopsis: The importance and benefits of small, quick love feelings and love actions: along with how to get and give them: along with the research into “felt love” is simply but rather well covered in this mini-love-lesson.


Don’t Miss It!

Have you felt loved today?  If not, maybe you missed it.  It’s easy to miss the little expressions of love that may come our way.  We usually can get the big expressions of love, but what about the little ones?  Did someone flash you an extra sweet, loving smile?  Has anyone briefly touch-loved you today in any way, and if you’re not sure, what does that say?  Maybe with some sincerity, someone said, “ I love you, Daddy (or Mommy or anyone else)” and you too quickly and perfunctorily  replied, “I love you too” then went on to whatever concerned you at the moment.  You just passed up a micro-moment for feeling loved.  Yes, it might have interrupted you a little, slowed you down a trifle, but if you had paused and savored it for 10 seconds it may have done you more good than you might know.

Some people learn to notice and savor the smaller “felt loved” feelings and their all-over sense of well-being rises a bit.  With that brief and mild, heightened sense of well-being a person’s immunity mechanisms may function just a bit better, as will their digestion, metabolism, blood flow and emotional mood.  So too, will their general happiness and relational harmony likely benefit.

From Little Benefits to Big Benefits

Every day, short periods of feeling cared about, treated with affection, heart valued, treated with kindness and genuinely and generally loved (not just romantically) can do us a world of good – if we do our job to fully receive the actions that express love to us.  Probably, everybody who is loved misses some of the actions of love coming their way.  Sadly, some people miss most of them.  Missing too many can result in relational harm.  Catching most of them can result in energizing joy, greater relational cooperation and reduced interaction friction.

What “Felt Love” Research Shows

Studies at Penn State found that people who reported having more frequently “felt love” from their Internet actions with friends, family, love mates and even acquaintances, reported more optimism, stronger sense of life purpose and a greater sense of well-being than did those who reported low incidence of “felt love” experiences.  Other research has indicated feeling loved increases health, happiness, relational harmony, general well-being and productivity.

Researchers using advanced statistical techniques at Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, along with behavioral sciences researchers at Duquesne University, Claremont, and The University of California, Irvine have been exploring love in everyday life.  Their studies confirm the concept that small fairly consistent showings of love, when well received, make everyday life far healthier and happier.

How To Get More Love Coming Your Way

The simplest way to get more love coming your way is to ask for it in a friendly, assertive, upbeat way.  Couples, friends, families and other groupings can decide together to work on showing each other love in little ways more often.  Especially does that work when it’s done in a fun way without criticism, judgment or other stressors.  Another way is to decide to put more micro-love behaviors into what you express to others.  That can work like planting seeds that later grow micro-expressions of love which begin to circulate in your love network.  A third way is to just start talking to your loved ones about micro-behaviors of love and, thus, raise everyone’s awareness of the little ways that count so big.

When talking about micro-love actions, you might want to mention Mother Teresa’s teaching that many small actions of love do you, and others, more good than the occasional grand, great gesture of love.  You could quote her statement “We can do no great things, only small things with great love (from LOVE: The Words and Inspiration’s of Mother Teresa, 2007, Blue Mountain Press).

How To Catch More Love Coming Your Way

One way to catch more of the expressed micro-love actions that may be sent your way is to become more aware of the 12 Expressional Love Behaviors. Practicing mindfulness exercises for each major way love is sent, especially the Core Four and Crucial Four, can be both fun and highly useful.  Mindfulness focused on when and how and with whom one feels loved can increase awareness and lead to greater well-being, various physical health improvements, love relationship functioning as well as better individual psychological health.

Opportunity Awareness

One of love’s best practices has to do with looking for all the opportunities we get to express love through micro-behaviors in everyday life.  More than once I have heard things like “I was suicidal until a smile, a hug, some words of encouragement and somebody told me I was loved”; “They gave me a thumbs up” or “They just came and stood next to me”.  We probably seldom get to know just how much some small, quick action of love expression makes a huge difference in someone’s life.  We now know that some micro-action of love coming our way can make a big, positive difference.

One More Thing: It might be a little act of love to talk over this mini-love-lesson with someone you know.  If you experiment with that, we’d really like it if you would mention this site and its many love lessons – Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: If you were going to target two people to send a micro-love behavior to, who would they be, what would the behavior be and when would you make it happen?

Co-Connecting -- An Essential Love Team Skill

Mini-Love-Lesson #225

Synopsis:  Introduce yourself to love teams and love’s teamwork; co-connecting with love for love relationships that really work; love advancement via co-connecting; and learning to see your circular system in this rich and enriching mini-love-lesson.


The Love Team Basic

For having a love relationship that really works, the people in the love relationship come to operate as a high functioning love team.  So, what do you know about being a good love team member?  Unfortunately the bad news is lots of people have not been trained to be a good team members of anything, let alone a love team.  The good news is you can learn and even enjoy the learning as you grow your love team skills.  Whether you are already good, or not, at love team skills, I suspect this mini-love-lesson is likely to help you get better.  So, here is a basic:

                Feeling Love Is Natural
Doing Love Takes Work – and –
Doing Love Together with Another Takes Teamwork

We do not learn and do teamwork by ourselves.  Love’s teamwork is learned and done jointly.  It takes some learning new ways, some unlearning old ways and lots of practicing better ways.  All sorts of jointly learning and jointly practicing better ways of loving in areas like communication, coordination, cooperation, compromising/synthesizing, companioning, concurring, concordant interacting, comradeship, conjoint pleasuring skills and play are involved.  One of the best things to learn for doing love’s teamwork well and better has to do with co-connecting.

Co-Connecting for a Love That Works

Connection is one of the five major functions of love link “A Functional Definition of Love”.  Co-connection skills are a major factor in what makes love become and keeps love being an ongoing, successful, relationship of love.  Without co-connection, love encounters and loving incidents can occur and exist for a while but they will not make a full-fledged, love relationship.  How often co-connection occurs and the quality of the co-connection has a lot to do with the strength and health of a love relationship.  People can feel love connected but unless they act in love’s co-connecting ways they are not likely to develop much of the full potential of a well-functioning and advancing love relationship.

What Is Co-Connecting with Love?

To understand co-connecting with love, think of two people doing a good job of lovingly hugging each other.  First they have to become aware of each other, then turn and move toward each other, then coordinate making their physical contact, followed by mindfully letting the feel of the hug mentally and emotionally soak in.  Then they might add some extra squeezing, caressing, fondling and other movements and maybe make some pleasurable sounds and comments as they savor the experience.  All those parts, or steps, go into two people co-connecting.  The steps are (1) focused awareness of each other, (2) emotionally and physically turning toward and moving toward each other, (3) emotionally making coordinated contact with each other, (4) mindfully and emotionally soaking up the feelings of that contact, then (5) adding embellishments and elaborations of the co-connection, and (6) savoring the love experience together.

If only one of the hugging people attempts to do these things and the other is limp, or stiff or in other ways nonresponsive, it does not work.  They are not two people co-connecting in joint, love action teamwork.

Now, think of a baby and its mother.  The mother holds the baby and the baby looks up and smiles maybe making a happy sound or wiggle which the mother sees and feels good with, and then she smiles back bigger at the infant, and then the infant does the same.  Love’s natural co-connecting is occurring.  In the brains of both the baby and mom, hormones are being released that facilitate love bonding and feeling good together.  Sadly there are some rare brain disorders and psychiatric conditions which make some moms and some babies unable to accomplish this co-connecting.  Also there are those that go through the overt touching and holding actions but it is not genuine and the brain does not make the chemicals that process the bonding or the good feelings.

Love’s co-connecting only happens when two or more are rather simultaneously giving and receiving each other’s love via the acts that convey love.  They, in effect, are cycling love and in the process generating more love.

With practice and artistry as a unified team, we can come to send and receive love actions in a wonderful co-functioning and co-connecting manner.  This is somewhat comparable to dancing the tango.  Each person moves with strong individuality but in harmonious, highly coordinated wholeness.  Either person making the same movements alone might be interesting but not as magnificent and amazing as the two harmoniously together.  The movements of the tango are revealing and representative of interacting with intimate passions and often the interconnecting emotions of a deeply felt, concurrent, co-connecting love relationship.  Both the tango and co-connecting via love can be erotically beautiful to behold and even better to participate in.

Co-Connecting For Love Advancement

We call it co-connecting, not just connecting, for a good reason. This is because in some love relationships only one person, or animal, is enacting the behaviors that bring about the sense of being love connected.  Co-connecting love is accomplished by two or more in a systemic, coordinated, interacting teamwork.  Together they form a joint system with various, repeated, behavioral patterns for giving, receiving, creating, using and enjoying love together.  Think of both a dance company and an American football team.  They both have people doing sometimes different and sometimes similar things individually but with interweaving patterns of behavior.  These patterns, when well executed, advance the cause and reason for the existence of both groups.  Likewise, it is with those in love who co-connect well.  (This also is true of many counselors and therapists and whether or not they become good at couple, family or conjoint therapy.)

Now, there is a problem.  Most people are not well-trained at seeing interaction patterns or all-over systemic functioning.  It is hard enough to understand the patterns of one person’s behavior let alone two, as in a couple, or more than two as in a family.  Many people who, for the first time, attend a modern dance troupe performance or a football game just see a lot of individuals moving around in peculiar ways.  They do not see the rhyme or reason, that is the patterns and systems forming and reforming, nor do they see the artful, and often beautiful and even astounding accomplishments of perfected teamwork going on before their eyes.  For first-timers, they may only see chaos and have no idea why at various times other watchers are clapping or cheering wildly.  When there is good, love-based, co-connection teamwork in couples, families, close friendships and comrade networks, similar amazing advancements and accomplishments can be achieved.  For people in a love relationship to make these advancements, it helps to see the larger picture of interaction patterns and the even bigger systems governing what is happening.     

If you only see individuals and never their interrelationship system, you may never see your own system and how it influences your own conjoint behavior.  It is extremely useful to see how you yourself and those you love behave in both healthy and unhealthy, circular patterns of interacting.  It also is quite difficult, especially at first.  But if you can learn to see your joint patterns and systems, you also can discover all sorts of ways to make life advancements, not to mention experiencing the joys they provide.  Here, we have space only to introduce you to this concept of systemic relating and how it is confluent with teamwork love and co-connecting love.  We encourage you to think with these concepts, apply them to your own life and see what you come up with.

One more thing, see what happens when you talk these ideas over with others, and while you are at it, we will thank you for mentioning this site to others so they also might have a bit more to do with and about love in their life.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

A Quotable Question about Love
Do not all love connections involve risk and, therefore, require at least some courage? (So, are you and yours – love courageous?)

Starting Friendships That Turn Into Love: The Surprising Big Factor

Synopsis: How to begin on the path toward real friendship love; sometimes go on to real and lasting mate or spouse type love; and the surprising and often determining factor that most people do not know makes the biggest difference in getting started on that path is revealed and well reviewed here.


From Strangers to Best Friends to Lovers

So often the best, strongest and healthiest love relationships once were just budding friendships.  It all started when strangers became new acquaintances.  From there they moved on to deepening friendships and then to true and lasting loves – or not.  What made the difference between those who stayed at the acquaintance level and those who got to a friendship that later turned into an ardent, romantic, real, love relationship?  Some, of course, continued on in deepening friendship love while others traveled the love-mate route.  Either way healthy, real, long-lasting and super enriching love was at the heart of those relationships.  Many of the happiest spouses were once best friends, close friends, dearest friends, great friends or long-term friends.  Those were the people who did not do the fall in love thing but rather did the grow in love thing.

With a little knowledge about love relationships and how they begin, you may be able to start on the path toward great friendship love and/or great spouse type love.

First Comes Getting from Acquaintanceship to Friendship

When you meet someone new, they go from being a stranger to being a new acquaintance.  It is that first impressions important time.  But the most important, early impression’s factor may surprise you.  It could, in fact, be one you might never have thought about because it turns out few people have.  First, it will be good to have a little background knowledge.

Do you know that in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone new, a very important non-conscious process begins to happen deep in your brain.  It is one that may determine whether, or not, you and this new person get to move on to real friendship or stay at the acquaintance only level.  Once you learn about it, your conscious mind can work with that subconscious process to get really good and better results.  By doing that, conscious plus subconscious synthesis, forming a real friendship that could become a mate love union becomes much more possible.

The Surprising, Biggest Factor That Can Start the Friendship Process to Begin

It is not so much what you say nor is it all about the qualities and intonations of your voice.  Neither does it have much to do with how you dress or your general appearance.  The big surprise is that the most important factor in starting a face-to-face, personal interaction that then can move toward friendship probably is your physical movements, or lack thereof.  Yes, that's right, apparently how you move makes the most substantial difference in the beginning of befriending a new acquaintance.

That is because the deep subconscious mind, where mostly we think friendship choices largely are made, evaluates people for friendship by the way they move their hands, arms, legs, body, head and most importantly their facial muscles.  Each of these gives clues to who a person is psychologically.  The subconscious reads and interprets all those movement clue and starts to render positive, negative or neutral valuations.

Some years ago, a UCLA psychologist reviewed the relevant research and concluded that in face-to-face, personal interactions about 55% of your general, emotional impact on another person has to do with your facial expressions.  No other factor got that high a percentage.  Since then, other research has added to and elaborated that researcher’s findings.  Those research efforts have given us a much more complete picture of positive, personal interaction formation, i.e. friendship beginning.

More recent research has discovered such things as the fact that within 30 seconds of meeting someone new, deep in your brain (in the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex -- for the medically minded) yay or nay friendship choosing unconsciously already has started to occur.

If the choosing is more yay, another part of your brain (the ventral tegmental section) will help motivate you toward increased, assertive, friendly interactions with a new person.  It also may motivate you to start moving various muscle groups in ways more likely to be interpreted by the person you are talking with, as emotionally positive and friendly.  Consciously, you probably are not likely to notice any of that happening.  However, adding conscious awareness and thinking about this non-conscious process can make it all work far better.

How to Use This Friendship and Love Knowledge

If you greet someone new by first boldly striding toward them, head up, shoulders back a little, arms swinging open a bit and with a big smile on your face, for many you probably are off to a pretty good start before you have said a single word.  If you do the opposite of those things, walk up to them with timid steps, hunched over, stoop and shrug, look down and away, keep your arms close to your body and immobile without any hand gestures, frown, scowl or look stone-faced – very probably it will not get off to a good start.

The trick is to be a bit mindful of your movable parts.  The subconscious of whoever you are talking to is likely reading your movements and is psycho-emotionally moving minutely toward or away from friendship with you because of these movement factors.

You do not have to fake anything.  Genuineness counts and phoniness sometimes can be perceived quite well.  You just have to ask yourself, are your movements genuinely representing you and who you want to be at the moment.  If you are not feeling so great, you might have to re-center your focus and mobilize your energy toward genuinely desiring to get off to a good start with this new person in your life.

When Your Movements Are Most Important

Here's another surprise from research.  Changing your facial expressions, your stance, posture, hand gestures, head turning and other movements all become increasingly important while you are verbally silently listening to your new, potential friend talking.  A nod when you feel a compatibility with what that person is saying, a look of interest with a bit of leaning forward when you are seated, looking attentive and making other small, appropriate, facial, expression changes for whatever emotions are being indicated, all help to move your joint interactions to go toward friendship beginning.

It is important to realize that your movements, in essence, are talking while you are verbally not speaking as well as when you are talking.  If your body language is talking in a harmonizing way with the new person you are interacting with, things are likely to go well.  If your motions convey your feelings are positive about that person, real friendship bonding becomes much more likely.  However, if you are not making pretty good eye contact, doing movements that convey you are disinterested, distracted, or bored or even worse uncaring, interaction harmony probably will not occur and you will be stuck at the acquaintance level, at best.

Let me suggest spending some time pondering what your movements are usually saying and what you want them to convey.  May I also recommend researching and studying some of what is known about nonverbal communication (sometimes called expressional communication) and, maybe then, its effect on friendship development.  After that try practicing micro-movements in the mirror followed by more practice of the same with friends, family and finally with strangers.

One stone-faced fellow I suggested this to reported practicing flashing smiles at strangers in a department store.  The very first day he attempted that, a rather strong personal connection occurred which quickly led him to becoming a no longer, lonely single.  So, be careful with all this because you never know what it may lead to.

If you would like to go deeper into this subject, I recommend checking out “Amity, The Journal of Friendship Studies” from the University of Leeds, UK and Stanford University's ongoing, friendship research projects, publications and courses to take.  Also, check out these other mini-love-lessons:  “Friendship Love and Its Extraordinary Importance”, “Behaviors That Make and Grow Friendship Love”, “Understanding Friendship: from Mild Geniality to Profound Love”.

Of course, there is so much more to learn and practice concerning starting friendships and the love they might lead to.  Hopefully, this mini-love-lesson will help you to get off to a really good start, if that's what you want to do.

One more thing

It might help to start or deepen a friendship by talking about the things in this mini-love-lesson with someone else, perhaps an acquaintance.  If you do that, please mention our site and its many mini-love-lessons, thereby, helping to spread love knowledge.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question:  To have a truly loving friend, do you have to know how to be one?

Getting Yourself Heard: A Big Important Self-Love Skill!

Mini-Love-Lesson #222

Synopsis: What being well heard consists of; its many faceted importance to your life and loves; and the basic how-to's of getting started on making it happen are presented here.


To be heard well is to be loved well

What does it mean to be heard well?  To get yourself heard well you had best first understand an answer to this question.  I suggest it means that someone cares enough, and knows how to listen to far more than just words and what they mean in the dictionary sense.  It means to pay attention to the feelings being expressed in tones of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and posture changes (see “How to Talk Love Without Words”).  Sometimes it means listening to what is not being said with words but maybe implied, hinted at or satirically (or euphemistically) verbalized.  Mostly it is hearing the emotions along with the meaning of the words.

To be well heard, also usually means that the hearer is what is termed an active listener.  Active listening involves good eye contact, occasionally making small empathetic sounds as the talker talks, having a great many different facial expressions appropriate and corresponding to each thing the talker communicates, shifting body postures indicating attentiveness and care, and doing gestures that represent being with and for the person being listened to but not necessarily in agreement with whatever is getting said.  This especially is important if you are listening to people in disagreement with each other.

To hear well with love, means to have and convey loving care as you listen.  Those who lovingly hear well, do well to ask themselves over and over, "am I really showing I care about this person I'm listening to".

I have had a part in training a wide variety of counselors, nurses therapists, psychologists, caseworkers and psychiatrists.  Some knew how to listen accurately but not lovingly.  Some knew how to listen actively, and that helped, but when loving care was absent, clients/patients knew it.  Genuineness in loving care is very important as one attempts to listening well with love.  The same is true for spouses, parents, dear friends, lovers and even in the way you listen to yourself.

What About the Words?

I get asked "Are not the words said important?"  Yes, they are very important but more with some people and situations than others.  For a great many to whom words and their meanings have high importance, focusing on and having memory for the words they say is imperative.  For a great many others, words are clumsily inaccurate stabs in the dark for what they are trying to get across.
Those who listen well can reflect back what you just said and also label an emotion they think you were feeling as you said it.  Silently they are repeating what you just said to themselves so that they can remember it and simultaneously registering an interpretation of your emotions.  Those who listen well are well practiced at doing this so it comes kind of automatically for many good listeners.
Vocabularies vary greatly.  So do styles of speech, use of colloquialisms, slang, jargon, code use, fad terms and even cadence and rhythm.  There are a great many parts to listening well.

One of the signs of those who listen well is that they can identify what they are not sure about and easily ask questions about it.   For instance, a person who listens well might occasionally say something like, "I know I'm interrupting a bit but I want to ask about something.  I noticed you really sped up when you started talking about person X.  Do you have a feelings or thoughts about that?".

Does Your Silence Get Listened to?

There is a saying "silence screams the loudest".  Those who listen well also listen well to your silence and often hear a lot in that silence.  They do what is called hearing with their eyes.  If it seems you are stuck, they might softly say something like, "Think out loud, maybe?"

What Those Who Listen Well Don't Do

Listening well means NOT just pause listening (only listening for pauses so the listener can start saying their stuff).  They also do not over talk other’s speech and, thus, demonstrate they are not listening at all.  Nor do they give not-asked-for advice, or try to answer questions that are not real questions but only statements in question form.  Also they do not attempt to tone-down harm-free, cathartic expression.  Nor do they attempt to block, suppress or limit obnoxious, profane, bizarre, irrational, degrading, sexual, anti-decorous and antisocial verbal expression before their cumulative meaning has been heard and well listened to.  Yes, there is quite a lot to this thing we call good listening and getting yourself heard well.

Why Do We Need to Get Ourselves Well Listened Too?

The simple answer is because it does us a tremendous amount of good.  For one thing, well listened to people get to feel well loved.  Well loved people are healthier, function more happily and are more productive than not well loved people.  Another reason has to do with the way our brains work.  It turns out we listen to ourselves better when we say things out loud.  It is even better when we talk to others who listen well.  Silent thinking can be quite good but if emotions are involved, even happy ones, it is better to have a loving listener or at least a good listener participating.

The process of being lovingly listened to quite well is a process which seems to trigger all sorts of healthy neurochemical and neuro-electrical functioning in our brains.  This, in turn, reduces loneliness, provides motivational energy, decreases depression and anxiety, erases a sense of isolation and greatly assists several biological, health processes.  Usually that makes getting yourself well heard quite uplifting.  It also tends to produce a greater clarity of thinking and an increase in person’s sense of self-worth and general significance.

If you want to have a sense of belonging and being part of a community, first do a good job of being a good listener and then occasionally do a good job of getting yourself heard.  That will help with your connectedness as you hone your interpersonal interaction and communication skills with that community.

Becoming Better Heard and Better Understood

As you may have guessed by now, there are not a lot of people who truly are good at hearing others well.  If you think just because someone loves you they are able to hear you well, you are likely to be wrong.  Listening well and especially listening with love is not a skill commonly learned.  A few learn it growing up in a loving, listening well home.  Some others learn it in schools that teach counseling skills.  Some stumble across it accidentally but may do it clumsily.  Everybody else has to apply themselves and learn to listen well with love – purposely.  This is where you and healthy self-love can come in.  By getting yourself well heard, you help yourself and those you love do your love relationship better.  Of course, you must do your share of hearing well those you love to make it really work.

Now that I have explained what I think is hearing well is, let's start with the basic how to's.

How To's & How Not To's

With healthy self-love, take responsibility for getting yourself heard well.  How do you do that?  By asking for what you want directly, clearly and lovingly (see “Requesting Not Expecting – A Love Skill”).  By reading this mini-love-lesson, you may know more about loving listening than anyone you know.  That means you are on the way to being able to ask for it, and describe what it is you want more exactly.  I suggest you take the position that, as an adult, it is your job to go after what you need, what you can use, and what you want, including being well listened to.  The simplest way to do that is to straightforwardly ask for it, describe it and then interactively cooperate in making it happen.  You also can do this a bit more diplomatically.

1. You might say, "I've been thinking that I don't do a very good job of getting myself really listened to, and I want to feel very listened to, so I'd like your help in getting there.  Would you be willing to help me with that?"

Probably, do not say something like, "You have never really listened to me and I hate you for that!"

2. You might say, "I've been reading about how many couples don't listen to each other very well because they don't know how.  Did you know couples and families even get physically healthier and feel much more loved (even those that already are pretty okay) as they work on their listening skills together?  How about we work together on that?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You probably wouldn't ever be interested in learning how to talk about your feelings and my feelings in our relationship, right?"

3. You might say, "I hear lots of couples are getting into this thing called loving listening and it's making their relationships even better.  Let's read up on that and see if we want to do the same, okay?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You are never going to learn how to communicate with me, are you!  You don't really love me enough to do anything like that, do you?"

link “Listening with Love”, link “Listening with Love and IN and OUT Brain Functions”, link “Listening with Love, Are You Good at It?”

The best way to make your request, is with love.  If you use loving tones of voice, loving facial expressions and the best words you can figure out to say, if you talk about wanting to feel truly heard, really deeply well heard and lovingly heard, you might just have started on a good trail with anyone who loves you.

What can go wrong?  Lots.  What if the loved one you are talking to feels accused and says things like "don't you think I hear you well enough” or “you don't listen to me either" or something else negative?  Well, that brings us to the next point of getting yourself well heard.

Before you ask to get really heard, and with love, it helps a lot to start working on and really striving to better hear those you love.  The adult principle is if you want it, become willing and able to give it.  To do that, you must study and practice -- part of which you are doing by reading this mini-love-lesson.  Keep it up.  Learn more.

The next good thing to do is to ask to be heard really well as you also offer to do the same with the person you are asking.  Then suggest that you work on it as a team studying, coaching and helping each other learn better to lovingly listen better to each other.   You can practice on each other and on others like your children, family, friends, etc.

Maybe Another Way to Start Getting Yourself Better Heard?

How about starting on this by going to one or more friends, family, special other, etc. and say you read this thing about getting well heard and would like to hear their ideas about it?  In the process you might introduce them to our mini-love-lessons designed to help people go about love in ways that work better and better – okay?

There is so much more but hopefully that is enough to begin with.

As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question
If we listen with our hearts, and not just our heads, do we hear a fuller and finer truth?