Part of my job is talking to people. Mostly that now happens by emails. But there are times emails don’t do it. Explaining things by emails can be like arguing with someone who isn’t listening.
Which might just be the definition of “arguing” – no one is listening.
And often when I speak to someone I am forewarned that they are “difficult”, that they don’t listen.
Which might also be the definition of “difficult” – “they don’t listen” (to me).
I find I don’t listen much. Listening is a tick-box. A transaction. A bank balance that requires you to deposit/withdraw the same as me: I put in loads of listening – so you have to. I “withdraw” a small amount of talking – you must “withdraw” the same.
We call that a good conversation.
That’s why I don’t “listen”. It’s too transactional. Too confrontational. Too disconnecting. Too “difficult”. But mainly because most of us – and ALL of these “difficult people” – have one thing in common: we don’t feel “heard”. We have a list of frustrations. And like most lists – these lists have a recurring theme not on the list at all:
“I want to be heard!”
I have learned something over the years from these conversations … If I hear you – really hear you – then we have something in common without anything being “fixed”. Because to have heard you is to have connected with you. So I have given you something precious without fixing anything at all. I have not “listened” – I have “heard” you – and the two are very different.
Along the way I have also found this: some people define being “heard” as being “right”.
And that requires a different response. One everyone at work (other than those high enough up the greasy pole) is disciplined for doing. Because that required response is to match (and often exceed) their belligerence, their volume, their style of language.
A response that is labelled “rude” and “unprofessional” – the consequence of which is usually “gross misconduct” – “conduct” (usually) forgiven as a first offence – but not when it is “serial behaviour”.
I have responded that way a handful of (serial behaviour) times and am still employed.
Because on each occasion it has not been taken as “gross” AFTER the conversation that follows. Which – on each occasion – resulted in “fixing” the problem. Because – in each case – the real “problem” was that the person was so determined they were right – so sure that my “hearing them” confirmed they were right – were so embedded in having to BE right …
That being “wrong” was not an option.
Except it is/was never about being wrong or right. But I can only challenge that belief by matching “fire” with “fire”. And I can only do THAT if I am also worth being heard by them. And listening is NOT being heard – being heard goes much (much!) deeper. So this “response” is not a “technique” I would ever try to train. Because it is not a technique.
It is a delicate moment of relationship and trust and connection.
And you cannot “train” that – because “that” is not a “technique” either – it is “being”.
And in the hundreds of times I have talked with people – in the hundred of times I have “heard” people and been “heard” – I have only used that response a few times.
Reading the bible Jesus gets “moody” (only) a few times. And I was taught that those occasions were “righteous anger”. And righteous anger is “acceptable” when faced with “man’s inhumanity to man”. And that has become a “teaching (and teachable) moment” in the church and Christian living.
I have come to disagree.
If there are teaching moments in the bible – and there are – they are of the difference between “love” and “Love”. Of “love” that is a “listening” and transactional – and “Love” that is unconditional and “being heard”.
One has rules and tick-boxes and is called religion and/or faith (pick whichever one works for you). The other doesn’t and isn’t.
And being a “broad church” seems to me to be simply bending (or ignoring) the rules. And if you believe there must be rules – then bending or ignoring them (I think) misses the point completely.