I See You
I think most of the frustrating times in my life can be traced to a single source and that is when I feel I am not heard. We all want to be heard, validated, understood, it is a primal need as a human being in this living experience.
We have all experienced not being heard and we have all been very poor listeners. As I have become acutely aware of my need to be heard, I have worked to improve my listening skills. Yesterday I was speaking with a co-worker who was talking about a project he worked on and he was clearly very proud of his final product. I stopped what I was doing and listened and asked questions and found myself getting excited about it, because he was so excited. There was a time I would have kept typing on my computer giving him only a portion of my attention because I was busy completing my own task which was a higher priority. I am not proud of that but it has been part of my learning experience, part of my journey.
Last week I received a call from another co-worker and he was slightly anxious about a project and needed to discuss it with me, it was the end of the day and I was going to be late for my daughter’s baseball game and was packing up to leave. Instead of saying to him, “can I call you back in a few minutes while I am walking to my car and you will have my full attention,” I half listened catching only a portion of the conversation. Once I arrived at my daughter’s game I realized I needed to clean that mess up and I called him back and apologized for my poor listening, I told him what I did hear and if he could please again share with me the rest of the information I missed.
What has motivated me to be better at listening is my own struggle with feeling heard, and as I have looked back at the great people who have inspired me or mentored me along this journey, not a one was a frenzied, rushed, multi-tasking person. All were thoughtful listeners who took the time to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with me, some in very important positions of power when I was just out of school. So I started to look at who I had become and who inspired me to be better and was seeing this great chasm separating the two. I still cringe a little on the inside when people say I know you are so busy but…..However, I created that and need to own up to it. I used to lament how busy I was and rush here, rush there, it made me feel important. I could barely give the proper attention to anything in front of me because I had to keep moving to the next thing, keeping all those balls in the air. Yet all along I was wanting to be seen, heard and validated, and I was living a life where I was not seeing, hearing and validating. It’s funny how we as people can get so far out of alignment, like our spines we occasionally need an adjustment to snap out it.
I was talking with a very close and dear friend about a situation where I do not feel my feedback is being heard and was seeking her advice, she said, people just want to know – “I see you,” and she said, “you are suffering from not being seen.” Wow it really struck a chord with me. Yes, please see me, hear me. So I asked her how can I be seen and heard, she said you must see and hear. I know this is my lesson, when someone comes to me and gives me feedback that is hard to hear and I feel my ego trying to dominate my listening and response, I simply need to listen and let the person know, I see you, I hear you. It is almost magical when a situation is brought to light where I am struggling and it leads me to insight to improve my experience with others and the result is a richer life, a richer experience.
“An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, step inside his or her shoes. This unification of speaker and listener is actually an extension and enlargement of ourselves, and new knowledge is always gained from this. Moreover, since true listening involves bracketing, a setting aside of the self, it also temporarily involves a total acceptance of the other. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will feel less and less vulnerable and more and more inclined to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. As this happens, speaker and listener begin to appreciate each other more and more, and the duet dance of love is begun again.” — M. Scott Peck, MD