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.

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