“This is the problem with dealing with someone who is actually a good listener. They don’t jump in on your sentences, saving you from actually finishing them, or talk over you, allowing what you do manage to get out to be lost or altered in transit. Instead, they wait, so you have to keep going.” ~ Sarah Dessen
I am really being challenged lately. I am noticing that people don’t want to listen. They want to assume and presume. They listen to half of one sentence that I say and then they are off and running with their advice. If they really wanted to know what was going on for me, wouldn’t they wait to hear the details and ask questions first?
I have been in dream circles for the last 6 years or so. What I really like about dream sharing is the etiquette around it. We have learned that the only one that can really say what their dream means is the person who had the dream. So, when it is our turn to try to interpret their dream, we know we can only see it from our perspective. We don’t stand in their shoes, we don’t have their background or their traumas or their personality. So in dream circle we say, “If this were my dream…” and then we give our interpretation of what we think is going on from our perspective and we know it is our perspective and we learn about ourselves from the other person’s dream.
Why can’t we do this when we are listening to someone talk about a concern or problem we are sharing? Why can’t we listen, then ask important questions and then ask if they would like to hear our perspective by saying, “If I was having this worry, I might try…”
I try to be a compassionate listener and wait until the person has told the story and then ask questions that will get to the meat of the problem or what is the obstacle so that we can brain storm together or they can brainstorm later after hearing some “burning” questions.
If we just advise someone about what to do, we take their power away. Why do we think that our way is the only way or even the right way? Did we really hear enough details to know if our situation is as similar to theirs as we think it is? I don’t want to engage in idle chit chat anymore. I don’t want to talk about things that I wouldn’t say in front of the person if he/she was standing there. The more aware and awake I am when I am talking with people the more I realize how unsatisfying some conversations are now.
I am disappointed when I start to tell “my story” and the listener jumps in with advise because this has happened to them. They didn’t hear the whole story yet and if they had, they would realize that this has not happened to them, or at least not in the way that it is happening to me.
It seems to me when I try to talk I get 3 responses. 1. Advise before I have a chance to lay out the story. 2. A quick change to talk about something else without any response about what I said. 3. A “one up” story, showing me that I should be grateful because my challenges are nothing compared to theirs. (Except that they didn’t listen to mine, so they really don’t even know.)
Whew! Apparently I am a little annoyed because I wrote 500 words in 15 minutes!
When someone has a problem or concern, they are looking for support. They are looking for someone to listen and reflect their concerns. Why are they having this concern? What brings this worry out? What moves them to think that something is good or bad? Maybe something bad will end up to be a powerful lesson that is really good. Underneath the worry, is there a little child that was told over and over that they were not good enough?
I took a listening course a few months ago and good listening skills involve getting to the bottom of a problem by asking what is happening inside and why. Getting to the bottom and finding out what the fear or anger is. What is the burning question? If I lost my job, what would happen? Five people could be worried in five different ways. One could be worried about money. One might feel betrayed. One might by angry, shamed or even relieved. One might see it as a blessing, taking the message that it is time to move on.
That’s why it’s so important to hear the perspective of why the person sees what is going on as a problem and what is their perspective. How can you jump in to give advise if you haven’t taken the time to see where they think the problem lies. If you jump in and tell them that they just need to fix their resume and you don’t know that they were hoping to retire in that job, you missed an opportunity to soothe their pain and help them to think about what other jobs they might like to retire with.
“We must remember that communication is more than a monologue. Good communication is a balance of speaking and sharing, listening carefully, and absorbing before we speak again.” ~ Anne Wilson Schaef
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen R. Covey