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Can You Hear Me?

I was at Starbucks the other day, and couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between two young lovers having a heated conversation sitting just a few feet away. The woman was trying to tell the guy why she “needed some space to think about things”.
When conversations get difficult or head nowhere, chances are that people are coming from their ego, and no longer listening. Self-relationship coach Carolyn Hidalgo offers guidance on what you should be practicing during those tough discussions.

I was at Starbucks the other day, and couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between two young lovers having a heated conversation sitting just a few feet away. The woman was trying to tell the guy why she “needed some space to think about things”. The guy was not happy asking in an angry tone, “What happened? It’s fine for 6 months, and the last two days it’s no longer fun? What’s going on?” In his frustration he communicated there was something wrong with her, and he needed an answer now. She tried to explain that the “little things were HUGE for her”.

I could sense her playfulness, and discomfort attempting to ease the blow, but he wasn’t listening. I felt their complete disconnection, and wanted to jump in and say, “You are not hearing each other! Do you care about each other? Are you willing you take a moment, and express ‘when I hear you say _______ or I watch you do _______, I feel _______, and what I want is _______ because ________ is what matters to me. Do you see what I’m saying? Please tell me what you just heard’.” I’d get each one to be silent when the other was talking focussing their attention on ‘what is this person wanting me to understand?’ not ‘here’s what your problem is ______’.

 

I think about the difficult conversations I’ve had with my husband, my children, friends and family where we are not hearing each other, and how I’ve had to slow down, notice my emotions taking over, pay attention to the words and tone I’m using. When the discussion is escalating nowhere fast – both of us are often coming from our ego, and no longer listening I’m needing to convince, and control. I’m attached to them getting me, instead of me understanding where are they coming from first, and acknowledging their hurt or frustration even if I don’t get why. Once they feel understood, there’s more space to share my truth – except it may not be all of it.

Here’s the tricky part I’ve been learning the hard way: there can be a gap not just in how we communicate, but what is able to be heard from someone else’s experience without judgement, or criticism showing up to attack with insults, rage, defensiveness, feeling contempt towards you, or just plain “taking it personally” because they have not experienced what is true for you. Sometimes there’s just no place for what you see to land with what they are unable to hear. Love disappears, and is replaced with the kind of anger you cannot change. At this point, you choose: is it healthy for my own wellbeing to push through the rising conflict where there’s a possibility for you to grow together? If you try to engage with someone’s ego that is condemning you, you will co-creatively create separation. Your own ego will show up to protect you, and the conflict will escalate into drama.

Think of it as meeting someone by matching their “vibe of self-love”. You can adjust yours with them, but you can’t change theirs to meet you because only they have control of the love they feel within themselves. Only they know what they know. Giving them more than they can receive can backfire because you will have expectations based on what you give that doesn’t match how they see themselves so they will push you away.

“LOVE IS THE  ABSENCE OF JUDGEMENT.” ~ Dalai Lama This revelation was both the most painful, and most enlightening realisation. Giving unconditional love to someone may not be available when they cannot give it to themselves. Sometimes walking away or not sharing everything is the compassionate approach. With children who don’t know how to express their emotions appropriately, all they need is to be seen, and acknowledged “I can see that this is hard for you, did you want to share what’s upsetting you? I’m going to give you some space.”

If you punish children – get angry at them instead of giving them appropriate consequences to teach them correctly – their egos will also push back into tantrums, shutting down, and you’ll miss the opportunity to connect authentically.

Here’s what I practice in those difficult conversations as a wife, friend, mom and as a coach:

  • Am I being critical with generalisations that make someone feel wrong where I am blaming “you always,

you never…why are you so… you don’t care about me”?

  • Am I being judgmental with “how could you think…” in a sarcastic manner, or holding condemning thoughts e.g. you must be stupid, disgusting, selfish, incompetent?
  • Am I being defensive with “I did this because you ___.” When I don’t agree with that way in the first place, or “Yes, BUT you ___” instead of focussing on what’s not working for me, and listening to what’s not working for them. Do I accept that what someone is saying, thinking or doing is their perception, and I’m not making up stories about them based on what I don’t like?
  • Am I stonewalling with avoidance, changing the subject or giving the silent treatment with an intention of disapproval to make the other person feel wrong so they will agree with me? I can hear everyone in my life much better now, including how I sound to others by paying attention to how they respond to what I’m saying, and self-managing my own ego. My connections are stronger, more open with a profound trust, and depth where we can share anything. With each person you get to grow, and be yourself. There’s a freedom here like no other. Not everyone is ready to be with “what is” in their own life, but when you are ready to be brutally honest with yourself,

and what matters to you – you give others permission to do the same. What are you not hearing, and what will you practice?

Relationship expert John Gottman called these the four horseman:

criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling that will end a relationship. Contempt (‘judgement’ that condemns) was the #1 predictor that will end a marriage. Here’s what I practice being mindful of when discussions get tough:

  • Am I acknowledging what someone else is saying so they understand that I see and understand what they are

saying? I may not necessarily agree, and that’s ok.

  • Am I listening for whether their reaction is ‘ready’ (they are not reacting with hostility, judgement, blame or defensiveness) to hear what my own truth is? Sometimes they are not ‘ready’ or don’t want to know.
  • Am I remembering to appreciate this person’s good intentions, and qualities so I can stay in the energy of being objective, curious and understanding to their viewpoint based on their experience (which is different from mine)?
  • Am I remembering to appreciate this person’s good intentions, and qualities so I can stay in the energy of being objective, curious and understanding to their viewpoint based on their experience (which is different from mine)?
  • Am I taking responsibility for the way I am choosing to show up?
  • Am I asking what can I learn from this?

 


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