That means being willing to hear the hard stuff, the yuck stuff…the stuff we would rather avoid! The times we disappoint a friend, wound our spouse, hurt our kids feelings. You know the REAL part of relationships that eventually brings you closer.
Honestly, my first reaction in these moments is to scramble, explain, justify, defend or at worst pull out the big guns with “Well you…did, said, didn’t do: and turn the tables.
(AXXX- imagine the sound of a game show “wrong answer: buzzer) Thank you for playing but WRONG ANSWER!!
None of these are great responses to our loved one who is being brave enough to say the hard stuff.
Last week, John and I were watching a movie together. It wasn’t really a date night, but it was definitely “our time” together in the midst of lots of life stuff.
I kept pausing the movie, picking up my phone and making notes to remember for a book I have been asked to co-author. And after the 4th time, John was exasperated. He said, “It really bugs me that you keep doing that. Can’t we just watch the movie?”
Out popped my defense attorney:
“This is for the book – it’s not like I am pausing it to replay a scene I missed because I was texting or check FB!” (And yes, I have done that!) “This is for work – its the whole point we are watching THIS movie.”
Defensive justifications & explanations all expressed in a “listen up buddy” tone that communicated, “Why are you mad, my actions are totally reasonable and you are over reacting!!”
Cue the Wrong Answer buzzer!
- “I’m sorry, I can see how that would bug you, I’ll stop.”
- “I’m sorry, I guess I should have checked to make sure you were okay with that happening before we started the movie. I’ll stop.”
- “I’m sorry, thank for saying something. I’ll stop.”
Snuggle and watch the rest of the movie, enjoying our time together. (note to self: re-watch movie alone to take notes).
It takes courage for our loved ones to speak up and share honestly. What if we actually appreciated them for taking a risk that would improve our relationship? What if we listened… really listened?
Ironically, I talk about Listening in my upcoming book Listen, Learn, Love: How to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships in 30 Days or Less because it is one of the fundamental skills for building strong relationships. Guess I should pull out my advance copy and re-read that chapter!!
I am in process, learning to be a better listener. Learning to pause, to fire my defense attorney and try to take in what my loved ones share even when it is hard to hear. Even when it means I made a mistake or utterly failed, – and everything in between.
Can you relate?
How do you react when your spouse, kids, friends share honestly about difficulties they have with you?
- Listen, ask for clarification and try to understand
- OR get defensive and explain/justify
- OR ____ (fill in the blank) with your own less than stellar listening behaviors.
Share your thoughts below and let’s chat! We really are all in this together!