It’s so easy to make friends when you are a great listener. People migrate to a person that is present with them when they are talking.
I’ve been told for decades what a great listener I am. I had a man in Landmark tell me I had the gift of listening. I’ve always prided myself in being just that present when people are talking to me.
I would be at the grocery store or snow tubing and people would just start telling me their stories, their problems. I do listen! That’s the problem.
Why is that? We are a society that is starved to be heard.
After many sessions on this with therapists, I was told that I need to just have a boundary up and not listen. Basically, it is people that just want someone to stand there while they talk. I thought I was being kind. The more I worked on this the more I realized Da*n I’m not really ever ask how I am. It’s always about me listening.
It has been a process for me to find healing in this. Eventually, I started sharing my own experiences and feelings when someone started to vomit on me. I started getting all types of reactions and mostly “it isn’t about you”. So when someone tells me “It isn’t about you”, yes it is.
It’s about me not feeling like I’m being held prisoner.
I was a victim of the conversations and I was doing it to myself. I had to learn to be more proactive.
Now, I consciously interrupt when it feels like people are vomiting their problems. I don’t jump in and share. Giving myself permission to interrupt was a big part of my healing.
I interrupt when I notice the imbalance of discussion is about what they want to say.
I interrupt when I don’t feel like listening.
I interrupt when I feel like I’m being their therapist.
I do interrupt and I do it consciously!
Why do I do this? Because I have a boundary and I’m clear now it isn’t ok. It isn’t anyone’s fault. If anything it was mine for being passive.
People really are starved to be heard.
That included me. I had a friend that I caught myself doing this to several years ago and she said: “oh you just need to vent”!! I appreciated that so much! I didn’t even realize I just needed to vent. I didn’t realize I was taking over the phone call. It’s a cycle. I was being passive and then needing to feel heard so I did it to her.
Now, that doesn’t mean I cannot and or do not listen intently to others. I have to be more self-centered until I find an energetic balance with the person. It’s my self-care box. It can be hard at first. People with strong personalities can be overbearing and very quick to respond. It feels overpowering. Almost as if it is impossible to say anything. I feel depleted when it’s over.
I’ve had conversations with friends where I notice it is about them and they have no clue they’ve not even asked me a thing. Even though I might have brought it up, they can’t really see it until I mirror it back. Funny how that happens. When we mirror back the behavior it can make them upset. They are seeing what they don’t like.
How can we stop the systemic lack of feeling unheard?
It takes awareness and conscious decisions. So for me now, I’m consciously choosing to hang out with people that desire a more reciprocal connection. People who ask how I am, and really mean it. People that can listen. It is an ebb and flows thing with friends or romantic partnerships.
When someone asks me how I am, I tell them the truth. If I ask someone how they are, I’m prepared to listen to it. Otherwise, I do not ask. It’s more honest.
How can we stop the systemic lack of feeling unheard and giving power to those that are overbearing with their conversations?
We can communicate more clearly and ask for what we need.
* I just need to vent
* Do you have time to listen?
* I have a lot to do and I need to run
* Change the subject
* Pause and do not acknowledge with head shakes
* Excuse me, I need to focus on this now
* I’m not able to listen right now
It absolutely can bring on triggers or frustration from the person used to you being the listener. Be prepared to have reactions to it. In the long run, I feel more peaceful and energetic now. Boundaries are just as important as asking to be heard. It’s respectful! It creates trust!
Photo by Daniel Fazio / Unsplash