Wednesday, July 25, 2012
So we’ve looked at feelings from a couple of points of view. First just understanding them, next trying to state our own and recognize those of others. Lastly, obstacles to listening – really listening. Part 2 of this series talked about what listening isn’t. In this last part we’ll take a quick look at those things that can make listening difficult.
The best test of good listening is to repeat back to the person speaking what you heard with your own interpretation. You may say back to someone, “So you’re upset with me because I didn’t remember to pick up those parts today” and the answer is a resounding, “No! I’m angry because I’ve asked you for 3 days in a row and I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall!” In a perfect world, your response would be, “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re absolutely right about that. You must feel like you’re just a voice in the wind when I do that. I’ll drop what I’m doing right now and go get them.” Got it? If it were only that simple. Actually, saying it wouldn’t be so hard – remembering to do it in the moment, not so much. Let’s take a look at this a little closer to find the obstacles to good listening.
First, our own feelings will get in the way. Whatever feeling comes up for you in that kind of moment will most likely hijack your thinking. You may get angry because of the tone of voice, because your partner is right and you feel ashamed, you may be wired for an argument because you had a bad day, the list goes on. So those feelings of ours move us to the next obstacle to good listening – defensiveness. We want the other person to know why we messed up and we’re looking for a little grace. In that moment we can’t even hear the other person’s comments as valid and we’re off again….
Sometimes when we are listening to others, it’s so hard to sit with them because what they are telling us makes us uncomfortable. They may be venting about a situation in their life, grieving, confused, or hurt. Instead of listening carefully and with empathy, we are planning our next remark or thinking about what they ‘should’ do about it. And all the while feeling very helpless. Here’s a helpful hint – listening well IS doing something, more than you may even know.
One of the most common mistakes in these moments is making what you think is a feeling statement but it’s really a thinking statement. So saying, “I feel you need to apologize to me” isn’t a feeling statement. So yes, what we feel is valid and other’s can’t tell us what to feel or not feel. Disguising a directive as a feeling statement won’t work to heal/help a relationship.
So, what about church? Those relationships may not be as deep as a couples relationship but it is certainly important that those who worship together work at understanding each other. Listening to why someone is so upset about an anticipated decision helps you to understand them better. It may reveal an alternative outcome to an anticipated decision or a different way of thinking about a situation. At the very least it will send the message that they matter to you and that they are worth listening to.