The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

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The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


The Importance of Learning to Listen

On every measurement of human happiness, good relationships with other people rate very high, if not top of the scale. And how many times have we all been told that communication is the key to good relationships? So how come, when we start talking, at work or at home, about something we know the other person doesn’t share our views on, we end up so often with a predictably pointless discussion, or worse, aggressive argument?

We can’t force other people or circumstances to change, but we can modify our own outlook and behaviour, which in turn will elicit different responses from others. One of the most frequent causes of friction in close relationships is that one, or both parties, believes their point of view is not being heard. You may feel this yourself, but a way to improve the situation is to make sure that you are listening properly to what the other person is telling, and asking of, you. You might find that what they want from you is very different to what you had assumed.

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one fact that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”
William James, psychologist (1842-1910)

Neurolinguistic programming quite rightly tells us that amongst the most important factors in good communication is the use of rich and varied language, which appeals to the sensory bias of the other person. So someone who employs phrases like “I hear what you’re saying” will understand you better if you use auditory metaphors; a person who “sees your point” will see it more easily if material is presented in a visual way; while it’s helpful to appeal to the emotions of someone who tells you “I feel very positive about…”.

Added to which, ensuring that the way you speak and your own body language are aligned to your words, and learning to read and interpret the body language of other people, are as important in communicating as the content of what you are actually saying.

However you process information, or present your material, nothing is more infuriating than sensing that the other person has not properly listened to you or your point of view. And it works both ways – if there’s a long standing disagreement festering in any of your relationships, you may unintentionally be failing to listen to what your partner, child, friend, parent, boss or colleague is trying to make you understand. My earlier post also points out how important listening is to Happiness At Work 

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

In Step 8 (Richer Relationships) of The Real Secret, we describe the skill of Empathic Listening. It involves focusing exclusively on the other person, using both your intellect and intuition to understand what they want and need you to hear from them – particularly on a difference of opinion - and ensuring that what you've understood them to say is what they intended you to hear.

When you listen empathically, you use your whole self not just to hear what the other person is saying, but to gain insights into what they are thinking and feeling. By extending this courtesy to them, you also allow the other person the space and time to communicate in a more relaxed and less combative manner.

When you are listening empathically, you will find yourself:
  • Engaged and interested, with your attention focused outwards on the other person
  • Intent upon and looking toward the other person, only glancing away occasionally to process what they are saying
  • Mirroring the other person’s posture and gestures
  • Using language which is “you” (not “I” or “me”) centred; using key words and language patterns that match the other person’s.
  • Asking the other person open questions rather than expressing your own beliefs.

You can find more information for developing Empathic Listening in The Real Secret, which is available in paperback and Kindle format on and, as well as most other online booksellers. You can order it through any bookshop, too.

Posted by Lucy

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