Recently, my son and his long-time girlfriend, with whom I had a close relationship, broke up and although these things happen usually for the best, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by the news. I could not imagine just letting her slip out of my life as if she had never been there and mattered, so I decided to give her a compassion call.
Well, according to some, you would have thought that this was absolutely the worst imaginable decision I could have ever made!
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I heard things like this:
• “You shouldn’t have called her. You should be taking your son’s side.” Oh really? Who says I anyone has to take sides at all? Does calling her mean a lack of allegiance to my son? Apparently so, to those judgmental blood-is-thicker-than-water types.
• “Well, the same thing happened to me and this is what I did.” How does your spring boarding into your story help me right now?
• “Don’t worry. Tomorrow’s another day.” Duh.
Wow, talk about conversation stoppers! Have you ever been guilty of reacting to people this way? If so, don't beat yourself up. Empathetic non-directive listening is a learned skill for most people. Take a vow to transform your listening skills.
Only one girlfriend got it. “Deb, I know how much you cared about her and how close you were to her. And of course, you want to be there for your son! It sounds like you were saddened and wanted to let her know you cared and wish her the best.”
No judgment. No personal story. No advice. Get it? That’s what compassion and empathetic listening sound like.
So how do we switch from our automated responses and provide a safety net for the other person to land in and be truly heard and understood? Mastering the "3 Types of Listening" is a major component to keeping your communication thriving and fluid.It takes a bit of practice and you’ll get the hang of it quickly, especially once you see how much all your communication will be improved.
#1 Subjective Listening is often the real culprit in communication breakdown. Do you ever hear yourself responding as in the above examples? Instead of bring focused on what the other person is saying, are you wondering how to help them or thinking that sharing your personal experience will put things in perspective in a "misery loves company" style? Maybe you're formulating your perfect unsolicited advice to hand out and make everything right. Surely, and often with your best yet awkward intentions in mind, you direct the conversation, because this is what you think they want and need to hear. Wrong. You'll know when they become silent or tell you that you just don't understand. If so, forgive yourself and make a vow to change your listening habits NOW.
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#2 Objective Listening is definitely a step in the right direction. Focused on the person who is speaking, your thoughts don’t relate back to yourself, and while this level will dramatically improve communication, it still doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter and validate with words what the other person is feeling deep down. It sounds like this:
“It’s hard for you to see their relationship fall apart.”