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1 " While women have come far in their ability to speak on their own behalf, there are many women who compromise what they want to say and what they actually say. Almost all women experience a dissonance between inner and outer. As a matter of emotional and sometimes physical survival, women have found it necessary to split their speech into two parts. One kind of speech is suppressed, occurring only in safe settings with intimates or within the ultimate safety of a woman's own mind.The second kind of speech is the publicly acceptable type that conforms to social expectations. The injunction to suppress certain feelings or thoughts can be so powerful that a woman may not be aware of it and may honestly believe that publicly acceptable speech is all she has in her. Carol Gilligan's work describes the destructive effects of this splitting of voice, especially in young girls who, as they embark on adolescence, have trouble speaking with clarity and strength. An emphasis on listening cultivates a stronger expression of voice. Listening is a crucial component in Imago Theory, where couples are taught to mirror, or repeat back, each other's thoughts, feelings, and needs as a way of building not only their partner's sense of self, but their own. Our core self becomes stronger when it is mirrored back. Voice that is not mirrored dies. When the process of mirroring is followed by validating and empathizing, a deep listening is done with feeling. All of us need validation -- that who we are, what we think, and how we feel does make sense. And the deepest form of listening is empathy, by which we are able to resonate on a soul level with the feelings and needs of one another.A wise proverb states that "Speech is silver, Silence is gold," reminding us of the forgotten value of silence. Feminist theorist Patrocinio Schweickart chose those words as the title of her article on talking and listening that parallels the inward and outward rhythm of Imago dialogue. She points our attention to the value of quiet as a tool that helps us notice the complex interplay of inner and outer that characterizes any creative process. For something new to happen, we need silence and receptivity as well as action and productivity. While some theorists see speaking as active and listening as passive, Schweickart and Imago Theory both point to the reality that both speaking and listening are active. Listening is a way of meaning-making. Theologian Nelle Morten refers to this dynamic as "hearing each other into speech."Ultimately, the development of authentic voice is a process that involves that involves a flow between speaking and listening. In listening, one becomes attuned to the surroundings so that speech becomes relevant and meaningful. This undulating rhythm of speaking and listening is the bedrock for dialogue in Imago Theory and for all of us who care about relationship. "

Helen LaKelly Hunt , Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance