What Is A Listening Partner?

If you’ve been following my stuff (yay! and thank you) then you will have heard me harp on and on about a Listening Partnership and getting Listening Time. So what is it and why is it so important?

The Listening Partnership was invented by Patty Wipfler of Hand In Hand Parenting (and author of Listen) whose Parenting by Connection approach is centred around 5 tools:

1. Setting Limits
2. Staylistening
3. Playlistening
4. Special Time
5. Listening Partnerships

The other 4 are mostly child-centric but the 5th is born of the underlying fact that parenting requires good support and that most triggers arise from within. As with our children’s big emotions, some thoughts and feelings are better out than in.

When I first heard this concept, I felt it wasn’t necessary for me and I didn’t feel like I had the time. I knew that in the last few years I had cultivated strong friendships that allowed me to chat about my children and whatever challenges I faced so why did I need to make time for this specific process? As I threw myself more into Hand in Hand Parenting and their courses it kept coming up as a must-do.

So I read the Listening Partnership guidelines (yes, it’s long… try designating 5-10 pages a day) and started to understand that this would be quite different to a normal conversation with a friend or family member. I then went onto the Hand In Hand Parenting Support Page and posted looking for someone. The first person wasn’t a match but then I read someone else’s post and it resonated with me. 6 months later, I now fully understand and appreciate the benefit of having a Listening Partner.

The purpose of the Listener is to Actively Listen without judgment and just hold the thoughts that the other person is good and wise and has all the answers. It’s a great skill to learn to just listen and to not compare, judge, analyse or relate.

For the other person, the idea is to just get out whatever they need to. It could be relating what’s going on in their life now, some recommend starting by going through your life story, I found describing what was going on for me at my daughter’s age highly illuminating, you can simply cry or scream or rage or swear, you can speak to the Listener as though they are your child/partner/parent/teacher/in-laws, or go over what you would like to do instead of what you did in certain situations (both positive and negative options). I believe very strongly in all 5 HiH tools but this is often the best one when you just can’t work out why on earth something is not working!

So how do you find someone? Who is suitable? This may be different for everyone. For me, I felt I wanted to find someone I don’t know at all and speak to over the phone. We do this for 20 mins each a week. You COULD ask a good friend but you would have to have good guidelines around the sacredness of what is said during Listening Time (it should not be referred to again by the Listener) and I think that can be hard for friends or family. I recommend joining the Hand In Hand Parenting Support page and posting your time zone and availability and your desire to find a partner. I’ve also found this page helpful for finding an emergency Listening Partner too.

I have so many great Listening stories but one is from when I was preparing for an overseas holiday recently and I kept having this awful thought enter my head over and over and it started to produce graphic images. I knew I needed some help but I almost thought it was too much for my Listening Partner. So I sent a text with my dilemma. I got a beautiful empathic response and felt strong enough to go ahead and get some time on it. Once I had finished my 20 minutes, I felt a million times lighter and that thought had lost its power. I also didn’t feel like there was something wrong with me. In fact, I felt empowered with this device I had to obliterate that sort of intensity and pain from my life. I felt well armed and well supported and that it something us parents absolutely need!

Thoughts can plague us, especially when we have children. We are all trying to do our best to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids. So the guilt and worry are endless but it doesn’t serve anyone and depending on how you react to self-criticism, it can often send you in the opposite direction of where you’d like to be. I highly recommend some good Listening Time to anyone, not just parents!

If you would like some help finding a Listening Partner, have any further questions or would just like to try it out then Just Ask!