We have a friend, I’ll call her Susie, who is a very hard person to connect with. This is what it’s like to talk to Susie:
Me: I’m just feeling so frustrated. We want this house but it’s at the high end of our budget.
Susie: Oh, how much is it?
Me: It’s $279,000. It’s the perfect house for us though, and we can afford it. I’m just feeling apprehensive about that mortgage.
Susie: Well, our house cost more than that. Heck, I wish our mortgage was that low! Our Realtor was so happy we were pre-qualified and were able to buy this house right away.
Me: Oh I see. My husband is just so stressed with his job right now. They are putting a lot on his plate but he’s not finding any meaning in the work. I’m afraid to take on this obligation when he’s feeling uncertain.
Susie: That’s why I love my job. It’s easy-peasey and everything I do is meaningful. My parents set me up for success with college and I found it in this job, that’s for sure. I just got a raise and a promotion, too. My boss keeps telling me how amazed she is with my work.
Do we all have a friend like Susie? Do you feel like they constantly want to one-up you? Does it feel like you are just prompting them to tell you THEIR life story, and they don’t ever really LISTEN to you? I’m sorry to say that Susie keeps losing friends and family from her life, and she claims to have no idea why. She’s a nice, lovely person, but no one feels like they can connect with her. Speaking with her, she seems self-centered and judgemental.
Most of us can recall a time, maybe it’s every time, where we are talking to a good friend and the whole time we’re thinking about what WE’RE going to say next
. We aren’t even really listening, other than to come up with how we are going to respond.
- Rehearsing our next line
To really develop TRUE connection with others, we need to clear our minds and practice ActiveListening during our conversations. A lot of our relationship conflicts stem from the fact that we’re not listening to one another because our minds are so cluttered with thoughts of protecting our egos and getting others to fulfill our fantasy expectations of them. We have an agenda.
Of course, I’m absolutely guilty of this too. I’m always thinking about, “How can I fix this for this person??” Because, duh, I have all of the answers (don’t we all?!)… but what people really need from us is to be heard. We each need our feelings validated and a little empathy from our friends and loved ones. There is a time for offering advice, and a time for telling our own stories, but we can’t go from listening to being heard without first validating and empathizing.
It’s like trying to color our hair without that vital component called developer, which opens up the hair cuticle. We can’t deposit the color before that step of making the hair ready to receive it. People need to be ready to receive whatever we have to give, and that means taking the time to listen to them with love, without putting our own spin on their words or feeling the need to defend ourselves and protect our ego. “Ears will hear only what emotions will allow” – and if you don’t validate their feelings FIRST, then you can’t move on.
1. Repeat what they’ve said.
2. Acknowledge what they must be FEELING and NEEDING.
I’ve been busy practicing ActiveListening this week, and it was really amazing how much more I HEARD and REMEMBERED about my conversations with others. Sometimes it felt awkward – I wasn’t sure when to offer empathy and when to just be silent. But I noticed that I was able to come up with better questions, and offer them without judging/protecting myself as well. This took our conversations deeper and deeper and I was able to offer more support.
Who would benefit from your ActiveListening this week?
I recommend all of my clients read “Non-Violent Communication: The Language of Life” by Marshall B. Rosenberg. This goes into detail about how and why we validate others as we speak, and how to have an empowered conversation.