We all have opinions - nobody is capable of communicating from a completely neutral position. We all take a posture that is based on both the negative and positive lessons from our past, the pain and circumstances from our present and the fear and hopes of our future. So, when people come together in a relationship, there is no way they will agree on everything. This makes friendships fun, exciting, dangerous and challenging all at the same time. I always thought I was easy to get along with and pretty good at communicating. But there is one thing that plain ticks me off….
If you want to get under my skin, make assumptions about me. If you want to really tick me off and make my Irish red-headed blood boil, ask me a question and then instead of really listening to my answer, start judging how you think that I feel. What hurts me the most is when my intentions are misunderstood and when my feelings are not validated no matter how much the listener disagrees with them. At the very least, I want to know that I have been heard.
Last Wednesday I was sitting across a table from an amazing friend of mine, munching on a burrito and sipping on a Coke. During our conversation, it came to my attention that I do the very thing that I hate. I realized that I carry a chip on my shoulder so to speak. For as long as I can remember, in my desperation for wanting to convince people that my heart is good, I have become defensive. When I am defensive, I stop listening. When I stop listening, I misunderstand intentions and devalue my relationships. I would never want this done to me. This was a sobering discovery and it has been hard for me to swallow.
Perhaps the most heart breaking thing is that I have done this to people that I love the most. Over the past 2 years, I have found my voice but I have used it to shut people down when they are just trying to communicate with me. This makes me sad because what I want more than anything is to live in honest relationships with people. I hate that I have not been a safe place for some people to honestly share their hurt...especially when I am the one who hurt them. Instead of focusing on how the hurt was unintentional, I should have kept my mouth shut and listened. I should have validated their pain and emotion and said that I was sorry. Sometimes I wish that I could re-wind...
I have learned that people’s emotions and thoughts do NOT have to make sense to me in order to be meaningful and valid to them.
As a friend and partner, my job is to love. And in my experience, being heard feels a whole lot more like love than being criticized, judged and critiqued. I am not saying that there is not room for honesty in relationships. I think it is vital! But the moment someone opens up and shares their heart is not necessarily my opportunity to spew my opinions on their life and attempt to solve “their” problems. This should be done sensitively and cautiously and only by invitation.
I am determined to work hard in the future to be more loving in my responses...I know I will fail at times. My “knee jerk” reaction is to defend but I really want to change this in my life. I was created with two ears and one mouth…hopefully I can learn to use my ears twice as much.
Until Next time,
Thank you Marissa for helping me see this and thank you Jenn for tolerating me while I learn.