Listen for the unsaid, the fear, the pain and the insecurity.
It’s difficult to pinpoint whether this is a cultural norm or just my upbringing. Every time I intend to discuss with my parents about an idea or a thought, my body tenses up for the awaiting disapproval…
Me: What do you think about me becoming an entrepreneur? *glancing at her face*
She: No. Too risky. *eyes fixed on her laptop*
Me: Right, I know you are afraid that I may lose money. But what about something that people are already doing? Like opening an Airbnb?
She: No, you don’t know anything about operating an Airbnb. Can you scrub toilets and make beds? Can you continue for at least 10 years? You’ve never had the experience! *voice sharp*
Me: Yes, I know. Of course, I’d have to do market research and evaluate the possibility, but right now, it’s just an idea that I’m exploring. And that’s why I’m talking to you about it because I know you can offer valuable suggestions that are worth considering. *keeping my voice levelled*
She: Umm, okay, right, it’s just an idea for now. I just don’t want you to go ahead and jump right into it. *caught off guard*
Walking back to my room, I congratulated myself for not getting defensive.
Feeling rejected and attacked tends to shut down any form of listening.
It is only human to want to protect ourselves.
Listening to friends’ relationship problems is a privilege to me. Once in a while, you recognize the same conflicts in your own. Lying in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, I held my phone with both hands…
She: He complained that I don’t text him enough, but he doesn’t realize my work is busier than his.
Me: And what was your response to him?
She: I told him exactly that. My work is busy and he shot back saying then he’d be better off talking to someone else. Then I replied, okay, I will just shut up and listen.
Me: Haha, and I suppose you were annoyed the entire time.
She: Yes. I’m exhausted with work and now I also have to meet his needs and expectations.
Me: It’s hard to have a conversation when neither side feels listened to. He feels insecure and seeks out comfort from you, and you may see his complaint as a personal judgment, so you defend yourself.
She: Sigh… a bad cycle…
Me: Your experience sounds familiar, except I was the one saying “okay, fine, go find someone else.”
We are entitled to our feelings.
For some, holding back our emotional response may feel awkward and a betrayal to our nature.
But it may be how we react despite how we feel that determines the course of a communication.