Listening with our heart
IMAGE COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK
I took a deep breath, looked him square in the eyes and said ‘Stephen, you‘re just not hearing me. It hurts!’
You know what it’s like to say something only to have it fall on deaf ears. It isn’t pleasant. OK—once in a while you let it go, maybe the other person is distracted, overwhelmed or temporarily insensitive. It happens to us all. But with our closest relationships it may happen repeatedly. Feeling unheard not only feels bad, it causes resentment. We feel disrespected and unappreciated even if we know it wasn’t meant. When we ignore or suppress our feelings, resentment builds until it boils over. Things get messy!
Stephen and I just experienced the most distracting six months of our marriage. We sold our home, lived in cramped accommodations and built a new house, making countless decisions and spending more than we anticipated. You know how it is. We were mentally fragmented, physically exhausted, irritable and impatient. We kept pushing each other‘s buttons.
It’s to be expected. Transitions are stressful and affect even the most solid relationship. It’s tricky though; every one and every situation is different. When unheard, Stephen goes silent, whereas I get vocal. So why express your discomfort if it’s going to fall on deaf ears again? The key is to look at the BIG picture—not just his behavior or mine, but seeing my own buttons being pushed. By seeing your role as it plays out, you realize you have a choice to speak up and express yourself clearly, or to let negativity consume you. It’s empowering. It takes practice, patience and the courage to go outside your comfort zone to understand where you and the other person are coming from. But it’s SO worth it.
Our training as personal coaches helped us a lot. Here are five things you might say to help you ‘be heard’ and at the same time cultivate love and respect. When you feel unheard ask the other person:
1. Am I interrupting you? Are you distracted? I need to know if you don’t hear me. You’re showing respect for their time and space while informing them that you are trying to communicate.
2. How do you feel about what I just said? You’re connecting to their emotions to help them use this part of their brain.
3. What do you think I’m trying to say? When they mirror what you say, you can see what they’re ‘hearing’ and what they may be filtering out.
4. I understand you have something to say, but I need you to hear without judging or without trying to fix or solve my problem. Problem solving is a common well intentioned reaction but may not be what you want. This is a clear message about what you need.
5. How can we solve it together? You’re opening doors to creating deeper bonds, more intimacy.
You can wait and hope to eventually be heard or try a new way. Relationships grow and deepen when we listen with our heart. It’s real, it’s true, it’s you!
Caroline Courey is a personal life coach. Learn more about life coaching and Caroline’s service offered in person, by phone or Skype, call (450) 853-0616 or visit www.courey.com