Listening and Following Directions

So much of what people who love us want for us to change is incredibly useful, but our common reaction is to defend and accuse the speaker. Sure, the speaker is often one or more of these things: upset, exasperated, an authority figure, guilty of similar (or, in our minds, worse) infractions, angry and always imperfect. We look for perfect teachers, our bar for trust is so high and we lose the power of the feedback that’s all around us.

When we take on transformation, we learn that those who love us have already been telling us the same things we now relate to as breakthroughs or insights. We just wouldn’t hear them when they said them. I don’t say couldn’t, because there’s a part of us that wants to be right so much that we will not allow ourselves to hear. We feel threatened and go right into survival behavior instead of listening and considering the words. What we need to hear is right there, potentially saving us years of anguish or lackluster results.

Today, my wife told me she thought we weren’t connecting well over the last few days. What did I do? I immediately looked at the things I know she does that gets in the way. I was defensive, not listening, being right. Everything I had to say may have been useful, but I made no use of her simple observation. If I took responsibility for our gap in connection, I would be learning a lesson I clearly was not getting and I’d have much more possibility in all my relationships. It took a few hours and a swim in the pool with the boys, but then I finally heard her simple message, apologized and told her I loved her. Her immediate response was to apologize to me and give up what she was holding. She saw who she was being the minute I stopped defending and took responsibility.

Transformation requires us to follow directions, take cues and surrender beyond our normal reactions. In the end, it’s the only way, because everything else is just another version of the behaviors, reactions and patterns we’re looking to leave behind. People in our lives may be sick of our stuff and showing it, but the message is still vital for us to hear, because in the end, we’ll see our stuff that’s making them sick. If we were all willing to take on listening following directions and leaving our reactions behind, imagine where we’d be.

Unprotected Partnership

I saw a movie a few weeks ago that taught me more about relating than any course or book I’ve ever spent time with. It’s called “Buck” and it’s about a horse trainer named Buck Brannaman, who calls himself a natural horse trainer.

By watching Buck train a horse and train people, I learned about where I fall short in relating to others. To watch him with a horse is to see a master of owning his space, connecting without fear and leaving the luxury of one’s own reactions at the door for the sake of relating to another being. These horses tame themselves by choice. Buck creates a magnetic space that attracts their partnership, their union. It’s as if the horses see access to their own greatness through Buck and then as the horse’s owners follow Buck’s path, through human beings.

The striking thing for me was to see how Buck accepted the animal fully without making the story of where they had been important. He saw through it right to the center of the horse and all he saw was goodness and exhibited the patience required for the horse to follow suit and surrender it’s own story about life. To feel safe to connect with Buck and create unprotected partnership. He wasn’t trying to fix anything. He was an invitation for the horse to let go and remained that way, steadfastly.

I try to support people’s greatness, but I never understood the responsibility to own my reactions in such a deep way. To drop being right, to stand for the power and possibility of relating first, as access to the most impactful relationship possible with another human being.

Our fear sends others into theirs. Our righteousness about our fear (anger, disappointment, etc.) keeps us separate, in a place where we cannot possibly help or support others effectively. Truth is, we can barely get along without prioritizing relating in an on purpose way.

Since seeing the film, I have taken it on with my family, friends, clients, waitresses, strangers and found it to be energy providing and the source of miraculous possibility. Please support the film. It’s available on Netflix and showing the next two months on Showtime. There’s a lesson for every viewer.

Getting Off It

Every relationship suffers from parties choosing to be right.  The problem with being right is that  we become nearly impenetrable.  When you’re right, you don’t need anyone, any new ideas, any curiosity…When we need to be right, we’re always making someone else wrong.  How does it go for you when you feel made wrong?

I’ve been learning this the hard way, noticing every step as I learn, how important it was to be right and the damage it has done in relationships with those closest to me.  It’s been as rewarding to clean these up as it was to hold my beliefs over people.  Just this time, there’s a win-win at the end of it, not just my domination or upset from feeling dominated by their “no”.  Finally, I can appreciate the points of view of the group, of my friends, of those that love me and learn from them.

Being right usually comes from fear.  The fear of things not going your way.  The fear of living in an unpredictable world.  The fear of possibility.  In relationships, we hurt each other with our rightness, we demand agreement, because without it, we’re letting go of the safety of our own reality.

Being right has nothing to do with relating to people.  It’s a dead end.  Just because you don’t agree with someone, you’re going to create yourself as opposing them, just to defend your worldview.

We insist upon being right the most in the relationships where we have experienced the most pain.  Just look at sibling or parent relationships.  If you’re married, look at how you need to be right with your spouse.  If you’re divorced, see how it affected the ending of the relationship.  If you look closely, you’ll see your health, sleep, weight and other life issues are negatively affected by prolonged periods of needing to be right.  Being right takes vigilance, energy, all out defense to keep it alive and we suffer for it.  The more right we need to be, the more alone we find ourselves.

We can either be right or be in relationship.  Inside relationship, that static concept of ourselves, our reality, starts to bend, shift, detach, it becomes malleable.  It’s difficult to put your finger on, because it is truly an experience of aliveness. Like love, laughter and joy, it’s the uncertainty of what will happen,living in the unknown for just a moment, that fills our soul.

Sure, we may have something valuable for others, but we must surrender to their reality, listen to our partners and truly enroll them if we have a hope of keeping our good advice from becoming the next thing to separate ourselves from each other.

Try it on.