I read something the other day that caught my eye.

The person quoted said that the most important part of a relationship is the ears. As in making sure to listen to your partner.

I can’t for the life of me remember who said it.

And not because I wasn’t listening.

In my defense, I was reading it, not hearing it, so I can’t be entirely at fault.

But the important thing is that it took root, as I believe I got the true meaning of what was meant.

There is a difference between hearing and listening.

If we have the ability to hear, we are aware of a lot — from background noises like birds and traffic to a TV with the volume turned down while we’re on the phone.

Listening, however, is another skill entirely. It involves participation. It involves paying attention. Sometimes even face-to-face and making eye contact.

Not so easy, is it? Especially when we factor in texts and emails pinging and notifications interrupting every minute of every day.

Ron and I talk. Often and a lot.

OK, so maybe it’s mostly me.

I call him throughout the day, to update him on the latest in my documentary that is called life.

Sometimes, sure, he’ll let me know that it doesn’t sound like an update but rather a rehash or more of the same players doing the same silly, or stupid, things.

Whatever.

The point is, there are times when I just need to say these things. Likewise, there are the times I simply need to be heard.

One day I called him all upset about this thing or the other. I prefaced my remarks by saying, “You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to fix it. You can even put the phone down, as there will be no quiz at the end. I just need to get this out.”

That worked. Let him off the hook and I got what I needed.

One time, though, I realized this wasn’t always the best thing.

It was the day I was involved in a long story and when I took I breath, I could hear him on the line giving his McDonalds order at the drive-through.

Well, in his defense, I had told him he didn’t “have to” listen. So, he didn’t interrupt, but he also wasn’t particularly good at hiding it.

There is a balance, if we strike it.

Ron reminds me all the time that he is a “student of Phyllis.” Sweet, isn’t it?

More often than not, he is listening. He is paying attention. And he does remember what I’ve said, with or without a pop quiz.

For you see, it is not necessarily about the words but the meaning behind them.

Listening, truly listening, involves more muscles than the ears. It should also incorporate the heart.

Paying attention to tone of voice, body language, the emotions behind what others are sharing.

I believe, if we listen with our hearts, we will better factor in what matters and more easily edit out what does not.

So, the next time someone asks you to “lend me your ears,” throw in a little heart, too.