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            Did you know that Valentine’s Day is banned in Iran, Malaysia, Russia, & Saudi Arabia? Hindu and Islamic traditionalists consider it to be cultural contamination from the west.  But it’s celebrated in dozens of countries in addition to the U.S., because, at its best, Valentine’s Day celebrates the basic desire we all have to love and be loved.              

        Most of us long—or love—to be in a relationship where each person gets to treat the other as uniquely special, admire her beauty and grace, appreciate his competence, enjoy erotic excitement and sexual passion, brag about your partner, get him gifts and plan special times for the two of you, show her off to your friends and family, share secrets, support and be supported, touch. What great gifts!

            But, these gifts require more than the superficial slogans on Valentine cards and heart-shaped candies.  They can be yours to share when you build a relationship by understanding this simple truth.

Nothing is more important to the quality of your life than your relationships, and nothing is more important to your relationships than your communicating.

            These five steps focus on how to listen and speak—both nonverbally and with words—to gain a deeper connection with your loved ones.

            Step #1:  Listen for and talk about the unmeasurable parts of you and your partner—your emotions-spirit-psycheMany parts of us are measurable—height, weight, blood pressure, brain activity, etc.  And, it’s the unmeasurable parts that make us who we are.  Listen for emotions in your conversation partner’s talk and writing and share relevant parts of what you’re feeling.  Tune in to the other’s spirit—consciousness, soul, aura, personality.  Listen between the lines.  And build a bank of feeling words you use to help others know more than just what you’re thinking.  

            Step #2:  Listen for and talk about your own and the other’s choices. Choices also help make us human.  They reveal our values and distinguish us from other cab drivers, file clerks, teachers, and managers.  Notice and ask about how your partner prioritizes her time, selects her clothes, and chooses where to go and how to spend her money.  Own and express your own choices, too—why you make important decisions, how you prefer your work team to operate, where you want to go on vacation.

            Step #3:  Listen for and talk about your reflections.  The human brain is uniquely able to reflect, to perceive its perceptions—to have an attitude about what you interpret, to praise or criticize what you notice, to raise questions and have second thoughts.  This is another feature that makes each of who we are.  Some examples might be, “I’m wondering what you think about how we’re doing this.”  “I’ve changed my mind, and I want you to know why.”  “I think this is the right way to go, and I’m not sure.” “I think we should cut back on the time we spend with them.”   People can get closer when they share reflections like these.

            Step #4:  Listen and talk mindfullyMindfulness has been a focus of Buddhist teaching for centuries and it’s now being studied in the most prestigious U.S. medical schools and clinics.  We’re mindless when we live life on automatic pilot.  We’re mindful when we can “be here now,” focus on what’s immediate, and be genuinely present to the other person.  Put the cellphone down, mute the television, and make eye contact.  When you want to really connect with someone, bracket your other agendas, blot out distractions, and focus on the whole person who’s with you here and now.              

            Step #5:  Let the first 4 steps guide you to listen and talk about your own and the other’s uniquenessThere’s only one you, and this applies to your conversation partner/lover, too.  As DNA analysis shows, no two people other than identical twins have the same genetic makeup, and life experiences and personalities make each identical twin unique, too.  Listen for uniqueness and let them know why you appreciate it, then bring relevant and appropriate parts of your own uniqueness into the conversation.  Real love happens when uniquenesses meet, and when it’s good for both of you, in different ways.

            Hopefully, these tips will help you move from connectivity to real human contact, whether you’ve been with your partner for a long time or are searching for love.  Personal communication can make any bond more healthy.

            These steps are explained and expanded in my book, U&ME:  Communicating in Moments that Matter, New and Revised edition.  It’s now available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook from Taos Institute Publications and

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