Deep Listening and Communication Failures

A few months ago I started to work at deep listening – to work at really being with the person who is speaking, hearing both what they say and maybe what’s not said.

For me, a major part of listening this way is not planning how I’m going to respond while you’re talking.

As so often happens when we try to move in one direction, I found my own sense of not being heard surfacing. It hasn’t been pretty.

I didn’t feel heard

On one occasion I was sharing something pretty painful with two women I love, and trust implicitly. We actually have an agreement to support each other in some issues, so when they started talking to each other over me when I felt it was my turn I was shocked and angry. I knew I wasn’t being heard. I tried just waiting while they completed with each other, but I moved close to rage.

I actually stood up, wanting to run. I didn’t, but I did raise my voice and accuse them of not listening in a way that, had they bought into my act, would have only spread the hurt. They didn’t, which let me calm down. We all apologized to each other and meant it and went on easily from there. I got to say what I needed to say and know I’d been heard and was able to listen to them.

I got triggered

Several days later I was talking with another person and she inadvertently triggered something in me that hurts, something I thought I’d pretty well healed, but obviously haven’t. In an instant I had gone from deep listening to a tight-voiced disapproval when I responded to what she said. Although both of us were trying not to, the hurt between us escalated.  I’ve apologized and then she apologized (these things are rarely one sided, but it’s up to me to mend my fences – and only that). We agreed to work to be clearer in our communications.

I failed to communicate clearly

Yesterday yet another woman called me to explain that a strong suggestion I had made to her several months ago had made her feel attacked and ashamed. I didn’t know where to go with that one because I knew that had not been my intent, and it had happened long enough ago so I didn’t remember the details. I’d known she was unhappy, tried to open a discussion by email and just dropped it when that didn’t work.

We talked for almost an hour and finally both of us felt heard and agreed to consider the other’s position. We also both admitted we felt drained from the session even though it seemed to end well.

The take-away from this? I don’t really have one yet. I’m going to continue practicing deep listening and watch what comes up in me. I’m bound to learn something worthwhile.

How do you listen?

Love and blessings,

Anne Wayman: When Grandmother Speaks

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Colleen McCann April 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Great message, Anne. Thank you for your insight and reminder to listen rather than plan what your going to say.

annew April 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm

You’re welcome! Good to see you here.

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