During Philip’s life, he devised a method of listening to each other that he taught to many thousands of people, who received immense benefit from it. It is called ‘Clean Listening’. He has written about it in his book ‘Do You Feel Loved By Me?, published in 1998; and below is an extract from that book, on how to do Clean Listening yourself.
You can learn to listen without judgment. This is a most powerful way of working with a partner. I offer it to you in the spirit of love.
One person talks while the other listens for five minutes (or three minutes), and then you swap over. When you’re the listener, you only listen. This means that you do your best not to show any signs of agreement or disagreement with the speaker, to appear neutral. This means no nodding of the head, or smiling, or other gestures that we normally make in conversation. You’re simply there as a listening presence, not bringing in your own responses or advice or suggestions. These things may be going on inside you, but your intention is to be as free from any external signs of this as possible. Don’t go off in dream looking around the room or out of the window, if you do daydream, don’t berate yourself; when you notice it, just come back to listening. Keep your attention on the speaker. keep a soft, present attention on them and their face. You don’t need to maintain eye contact, this can get too intense.
Listening like this has a profound effect in many ways, and one of them is because of the equality in which you both speak and listen for the same time. This is essential for this technique to work, even if your time is up in the middle of a sentence. It helps to have an external timing device, which will beep or ring. By making this simple agreement and keeping to it, you start to build trust and mutual respect.
You might be surprised how difficult you find it. Many people go into this thinking they’re good listeners and discover this is not the case, that actually simply listening is very challenging. We can give the appearance of listening by giving all the right responses and at the same time be occupied with the voices and judgements in our heads. All that you’re asked to do in this technique is to give your partner your attention, doing your best to be present for that person.
This may feel unnatural at first. That’s fine, it’s a process. Let thoughts come and go, don’t resist them, or try to chase them away. They come, they go, you just focus on listening to the speaker.
Your intention is to clean away any signs of agreement or disagreement as best you can. As you do this more you will very likely find a place of relaxation. “I don’t have to do anything! I can just listen.” What a relief! Many people report that they find a place within that is without judgement, a very natural place inside which feels deeply peaceful.
As the speaker, you may at first feel abandoned. we mostly get a lot of feedback when we’re speaking, even if it involves a lot of interruptions, but this clean listening is different: there are no interruptions and there’s no feedback (nonverbal or otherwise). Any uncomfortable feelings that arise are part of what needs to be gone through; stay with it and allow yourself to experience your feelings as fully as you can, talking about them if you choose.
As you go deeper into this you speak more from your heart and senses and less from your intellect, where you’ve got things worked out and rehearsed, knowing what’s coming next. You can explore a more vulnerable place of communication, where both people take it turns to listen and be heard in a non-judgemental way.