“I need you to listen”
“In a minute”
“You are the worst parent in the world, you don’t care” (or throws self on floor in temper)
One of my earliest memories is tugging at my mother’s skirt, trying to get her attention. I’m sure my kids have similar memories.
Sometimes, it feels like we are all looking to be heard. Thich Nhat Hanh puts it beautifully
We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then we will suffer less. But everyone is suffering, and no one wants to listen. We don’t know how to express ourselves so people can understand. Because we suffer so much, the way we express our pain hurts other people, and they don’t want to listen. Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s a bit of a vicious circle
- We ask for understanding and to be heard.
- Instead of really listening, people advise, judge, criticise, hijack the story…Then, our story builds up and up.
- We might turn inwards and stop asking–but the need is still there.
- Or we get angry and instead of saying “please” we shout or attack.
Neither reaction helps us meet our need to be heard. So what can we do when “please listen” doesn’t get a response?
Clarify the story
First, we need to clarify what’s happening. This Crucial Skills blog explains why this is so important. We concentrate on feelings without exploring what it is that we really need.
If we aren’t clear about our needs and specific about how they could be met, our message is not heard accurately.
So, let’s take a bit of time to figure out what we want.
Are there more than one way to meet that need? Is there another option–one we can control?
Secondly, listening to ourselves, and showing self-compassion not only helps us meet our need to be heard, but also benefits others.
Unfortunately, the ideal of being modest, self-effacing, and caring for the welfare of others often comes with the corollary that we must treat ourselves badly. The irony is that being good to yourself actually helps you be good to others, while being bad to yourself only gets in the way. Kristen Neff Full article
Rephrase the request
Nonviolent Communication helps us rephrase requests in a way that takes our needs and those of others into consideration. The graphic below summarises the four parts–downloadable pdf with more details.
What if that doesn’t work?
Sometimes, the other person might not be able or willing to listen. Will we get stuck in anger or sorrow waiting for the other person to give us what we want? Will we expect someone else to force them to give us what we want? Or will we try and find another way to ease the agony of being unheard?
Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, nothing else. Paulo Coelho