Wholehearted Relating: How to Connect Deeply Without Making It About You

Have you ever been vulnerably sharing something personal, only to have the listener hijack the conversation with their own story? “Oh, I totally relate,” they exclaim, “the same thing happened to me!” Suddenly, the focus has shifted away from you and your experience, leaving you feeling unheard and dismissed.

In our fast-paced, self-focused culture, this kind of conversational hijacking has become all too common. Many of us, myself included, fall into the trap of listening with the intent to reply rather than to understand. We’re so eager to share our own stories, opinions, and advice that we fail to create space for the other person to feel truly seen, felt, and heard.

But what if there was another way? What if, instead of making every conversation about us, we learned to show up with our whole hearts and listen deeply to others? This is the essence of what I call “wholehearted relating.” By learning how to genuinely engage, we not only build better relationships but also grow as individuals. In this article, I’ll share practical steps to help you put the spotlight back on meaningful connections, transform your conversations, and cultivate the art of wholehearted relating.

What is Wholehearted Relating?

Wholehearted Relating is the art of being fully present, real, and connected with others and listening with an open, curious, and compassionate heart. It involves setting aside our own agendas and creating a safe space for the other person to share their truth. When we relate wholeheartedly, we ask questions to deepen our understanding, reflect what we’ve heard, and honor the other person’s experience without judgment.

The Transformative Power of Wholehearted Relating

When we relate wholeheartedly, something profound happens – our hearts begin to awaken. We start to see the humanity in everyone we meet. We feel more connected, more alive, more at peace. And as we learn to honor the sacred in each interaction, we plant seeds of healing that ripple out far beyond us.

But wholehearted relating is not always easy. In a culture that prizes speed, efficiency, and self-interest, it can feel countercultural to slow down and listen deeply. Many of us, myself included, fall into common pitfalls like:

  • Listening with the intent to reply rather than to understand
  • Hijacking the conversation to share our own stories and opinions
  • Offering unsolicited advice instead of empathy and presence
  • Judging or dismissing others’ perspectives when they differ from ours

When we relate wholeheartedly, we set aside our own agendas and create a safe space for the other person to share their truth. We ask questions to deepen our understanding, reflect back what we’ve heard, and honor their experience without judgment.

Wholehearted relating is more than just a communication skill – it’s a spiritual practice that awakens the heart. When we learn to see and honor the humanity in everyone we meet, we start to feel more connected, more alive, more at peace. We plant seeds of healing that ripple out far beyond us.

Lessons from My Parents and My Own Journey

I first witnessed the transformative power of wholehearted relating in my own childhood home. My father, a charismatic extrovert, had a knack for commanding the room with his stories and opinions. People were drawn to his charm, but conversations always seemed to revolve around him, leaving others feeling unheard.

My mother, on the other hand, embodied the art of wholehearted listening. She had a quiet presence that put others instantly at ease. When you spoke with her, you felt like you were the only person in the world. She asked thoughtful questions, reflected back what she heard, and made you feel completely seen and accepted. People would open up to her within minutes, sharing vulnerabilities they had never voiced before.

As I grew older, I noticed myself adopting many of my father’s relating habits. I loved impressing people with my stories, knowledge, and wit. But my interactions felt superficial, my relationships disconnected. I longed for the depth of connection I felt with my mother.

That’s when I began my own “heart awakening” journey and committed to cultivating wholehearted relating skills. Through many clumsy attempts and awkward pauses, I slowly learned to tame my ego, set aside my agenda, and be more present in my interactions with others.

Practical Steps for Wholehearted Relating

If you’re inspired to bring more wholehearted relating into your own life, here are some practical steps to get started:

  1. Set a clear intention before conversations to be fully present, and stay open and curious
  2. Listen with your whole body, heart, and mind.
  3. Ask questions to deepen your understanding, like:
    • “What was that like for you?”
    • “How did that feel in your heart?”
    • “Why was this experience so meaningful to you?”
  4. Reflect back what you’ve heard to ensure understanding.
  5. Honor the other person’s experience, even when it differs from yours.
  6. Notice when you’re tempted to make the conversation about you. Welcome the discomfort, but keep listening instead as you consciously redirect your attention back to them. Practice the Heart Coherence Technique as you listen to them.
  7. Wait for the person to fully share their experience, then ask them if they would mind if you share a similar experience.

The goal of Wholehearted Relating is to build connection, not just to agree or understand. You can’t truly connect with others if you’re constantly hijacking the conversation and making it about you. Your perspective matters, but it’s crucial to give others space to fully express their unique feelings, views, and experiences. This allows you to get to know them better and feel more connected to them.

Also, wholehearted relating is a lifelong practice. There will be moments where you slip into old habits – that’s okay. Greet those moments with self-compassion, forgive yourself, and begin again. Each conversation is a new opportunity to practice, to open your heart and listen deeply.

Final Thoughts

Learning to relate wholeheartedly has been one of the most transformative practices I’ve learned. It has deepened my relationships, expanded my capacity for empathy, and helped me feel more aligned with my purpose as a heart-centered leader. It’s also made me a better coach.

I truly believe that if more of us committed to this practice, we could heal the rifts that divide us – one conversation at a time. By having the courage to show up vulnerably, to honor each other’s feelings and stories, to listen without judgment – you help create a world in which more and more people feel seen, heard, and valued. A world in which our shared humanity eclipses our surface differences.

This is the world I want to live in. The world I want to help create with every interaction and every coaching conversation. And it all starts with the simple, profound act of relating to others wholeheartedly.

Will you join me in this practice?

From my heart to yours,

Wholehearted relating

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