STEP TWO: Listen closer
So, step one is to pay attention and this means looking at WHAT is happening in our lives. What habits do we have in our thoughts, emotions and actions? It also means paying attention to the outcomes of these habits we have. It means paying attention to our inner world and our outer world too.
Step two is listening closer. (Grammarly suggests I use ‘listening more closely’. I will be a rebel and use what I like anyhoos, carrying on!)
Listening closer can seem like we are still at step one. But listening closer asks – what do I want? What am I trying to get out of this? What am I avoiding? Where are the needs I can meet? What needs shifting? What needs addressing?
And this is about listening to ourselves, to our lives and to others.
And I think this is hard for many of us moms. We don’t often take the time to stop and listen or give ourselves permission to listen.
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Listening closely is very hard for us.
The narrator never shuts up
For one, we have this mental conversation going on in our brains. In his book, The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer calls this ‘the voice in your head’, like a bad roommate cluttering your brain with doubts and stress responses and ‘solutions’. Listening closely is hard if we don’t first stop and differentiate between the voice in our heads and ourselves, the one who is listening to it.
‘You are not the voice in your head, you are the one who hears it’ – Michael Singer
We are all innately ‘self-focused’.
We all struggle with this ongoing narrative in our brain that revolves around what others are saying and how it all connects back to our own life.
When you are really listening, you turn this self-based narrative off and you are brought into someone else’s narrative. We turn the focus off ourselves and onto the person, situation or experience in front of us.
We become more present. Listening requires us to be very present.
We want something out of the experience
Another quote that has changed my life is ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’. This is from Steven Covey’s books (7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, which I really enjoyed)
When we listen to someone else we are often listening on one side, and formulating our response on the other side. We aren’t really listening to learn, we are listening to take over or steer the conversation.
To listen closely it needs to be less about what we need to get out of the conversation and more about paying attention to what is being offered to us to learn or experience.
If you want to practice this one, bring that mindset into an argument with your spouse. Just listen to understand where they are coming from instead of listening to find a flaw in their argument and defend your side. I started doing this years ago and it was a game-changer.
At first, Conor was so confused – like, ‘is this a trick?’. I suppose it would have been a strange shift from my old ways of playing opposing counsel instead of fighting on the same side. It is like whispering at your kids in times when you usually yell at them. Keep them on their toes!
We don’t realize that we tuned it out
There is feedback in our life, in our relationships, in our hearts, in our bodies – but slowly we tune it out.
There are many areas of my life I have tuned out over the years.
My body, and the signs it was giving me to rest and to change my habits.
My kids, and the ways they were asking for my attention and my empathy.
My heart, and the dreams it was craving but slowly tucking away because I was ignoring them.
My intuition, trusting that when I invited God into my life and heart that I could now trust my heart because He was in it.
We often don’t realize that we slowly shut down the lines of communication and then we get to a place where our relationships feel hard – relationships with ourselves, with our spiritual life, with the people we love.
We don’t want the responsibility
It is like looking at your screen time, or the empty chip bags in your garbage can, or way your family avoids you because you have kinda been a jerk all day.
Sometimes it is just easier to not pay attention and listen to what is actually happening because then you have to actually deal with it.
This is like avoiding marriage counselling because you don’t want to be told your problems, instead of going through the hard work of improving your marriage.
We don’t want the discomfort, we don’t want the drama, we don’t want to rock the boat. So let’s tune it all out.
Hey, I get it! I had been an ostrich for a lot of my life. I’m a Type nine on the enneagram and we are known for having the prowess and awareness of a sloth. It has been easier to play the victim of it all and not step up to the plate.
We need to quit playing the victim card, or the avoidance route and take responsibility.
We need to see that there is a benefit to going through this discomfort.
We need to see what is possible – we need to see this will all be worth it if we are willing to see it through.
Nobody ever listened to us
Sometimes the hardest reason to listen is that we weren’t raised to listen.
How would people in your world have listened to you as a child?
How were the people in your life listening to one another?
Some of us were taught that our needs and feelings and wants were frivolous, or a burden or childish. Some of us were taught that when we bury down our needs and feelings then we can be safe, and good, and secure.
If we have experiences in our lives where people dismiss, or punish, or ignore our needs and feelings than we will do that to ourselves, and others – because we learned that is what it looks like to love and be loved.
In order to listen to ourselves and others, we need to give ourselves permission. Permission to open that door and accept that it will be messy and hard at first but that, it is time to listen and people (you, those around you) deserve to be listened to.
How to listen more closely
A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to listen better to others. I wanted to hear their words and ask, what story are they trying to tell me?
I think this helped me start turning my mental narration off and join in their own story.
But I also learned that listening well is not this simple.
Listening well means listening to the unspoken.
Listening well means listening to myself too.
Listening to yourself
What do you want right now? What are you trying to get out of this situation?
Often we go about our daily life letting stress build-up. We aren’t mindful of how we are feeling and how we are acting.
We are spending our daily life either avoiding pain or chasing relief.
All our autopilot actions and habits are motivated by this.
Repeatedly throughout the day, I find myself wandering between chores, glancing at my phone, managing kids – feeling restless and overwhelmed. I need to stop and ask ‘what do I need right now?’ Is it a connection with someone I love? Is it sunlight on my face? Is it something good for my body? Is it more fun?
I need to be getting back in touch with my values. Who am I? How do I want to show up? What lights me up, what makes me feel alive? I need to be living them out on a daily basis.
We can continually ask ourselves ‘what do I want right now?’
We also need to listen to what we want in our lives.
What is our vision for the different areas of our life? Where do we want to end up at the end of the week, end of the year, end of ten years?
Every day we can take a little step to move us closer into the life we crave and desire – but we will never get there if we don’t take the time, give ourselves permission and really LISTEN closely in order to identify what it is we want!
Listening to others
Our relationships are more important to us than we take the time to appreciate.
When we feel stability in our parenting, intimacy and value in our marriage, support with our friends, enjoyment in our work, belonging in our community — like, just saying those things are probably making you realize how you ARE craving them, and trying to achieve them, AND how having them helps you show up well in your whole life.
Relationships matter because we are made for love, to give it and receive it and this is where the love flows.
I remember a time about a year ago. I had started working out of the house for a bit. The oldest two of the kids were in school and my youngest would go to daycare a couple of times a week. A couple of months in and I realized I hadn’t really looked at their faces – like really looked at them. I hadn’t had that mental imprint of their chubby cheeks and big little smile and bright eyes in too long.
I think I even said out loud to my daughter ‘come here and let me hold your face! when was the last time I really looked at your face’.
Who are the people in your life: How is their heart? What is happening in their world?
Listen to what they are saying to you. And listen just as much to what they are not saying
John Gottman outlines some ‘bids for connection’ – these are the ways that our partner and kids are inviting us in, asking for attention and connection – play with me, how was your day, a big laugh, a long sigh.
And if you are feeling like ‘nobody listens to me’. . . .
Oh, I’m sure the neighbours have heard me loudly lamenting this, often – then you also need to look at the listening landscape in your home.
Are you listening to yourself? Nobody else will take this seriously if you don’t.
Are you listening to others? My youngest son has a superpower of being reckless and saying what everyone else is thinking. There had been a few times where I would be on him for something and I’d be so fed up that I’d be like ‘go to your room, you aren’t listening, I’ll come see you in a bit’ and he’ll scream at me ‘no mom! You’re not listening to me!’. And when he’s in his room and I’m kickboxing my mattress to relieve stress – I realize, he’s right. He was trying to tell me something and I didn’t listen – I just steamrolled the conversation to get what I felt like I needed.
Listening to others is less about what is happening and more about the why underneath it all.
Pay attention to ‘the what’, listen closely to ‘the why’.
(And if you read the post on raising emotionally intelligent children, then be relieved that listening well to your kids doesn’t need to be enabling, it means acknowledging and accepting their emotions and moving on together through them)
Listening to your spiritual life
And finally, if you have a spiritual life, listening to that side of your life can be crucial in feeling centred, guided and inspired in your life. For me, I’m a Christian and there is a daily, sometimes hourly, practice of listening to God. What is He calling me into? How can I be trusting this part of my life to Him? Where is He leading me today?
Listening needs to be practiced on all levels, within ourselves on the daily and the long term – and with others in the direct and indirect ways.
It is hard work that takes patience, humility and permission that you (and others) are worth listening to.
The next step in the THREE STEPS TO SHOWING UP FOR YOUR LIFE is Being Brave. I’ll be covering that shortly.
In the meantime, I want you to be able to take some real action on this information. I’ve put together a quick evaluation you can take that will narrow down the top areas of your life that you can show up better for – the results will tell you your top areas and give you action steps on things to pay attention (good questions and prompts to keep in your mind throughout the day) and ways you can listen closer in to what you really want in this area of your life.
Find it at simpleonpurpose.ca/yourlifeevaluation
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