My daughter Rubie (3) woke me up at around 3am the other night, she was calling from her bedroom
“What is it sweetie?”
“I can’t find my light daddy”
I sort her out and go back to bed, 20 minutes later……
“What is it sweetie?”
I made a mistake – I was irritated before I got in there
“I can’t find my do-do’s daddy, where are they?”
Note: do-do’s are any kind of comforter, we have just reduced the sizeable quantity that she seemed to have somehow collected – until she was going to bed with a small mound of material 🙂 !
“There are no more in your bed sweetie, you have everything that is here”
This could turn into a whole big debate about the quantity and availability of the world supply of do-do’s!
Then, having slightly woken up I realised what a dummy I was being – she may be talking about her do-do’s with her words but that is not what she is saying.
What she is saying is: “Daddy, I feel a bit afraid, I feel a bit alone”
I just held her tight for a few minutes
Then I reminded her that; I Love her, therefore, she has nothing to be afraid of, she has everything she needs, and she is never alone
She went straight off
We ALL suffer from patterns of behaviour that do not help us, keep us trapped, cause unhappiness and generally can be quite destructive – we just need to learn to SEE them and take responsibility for them
One of these behaviours for my business partner is asking clearly for what he wants
We might be talking about something in the business, maybe a new change or a new project and lets say I make a suggestion, he might then respond with a number of reasons why he feels there is a better solution, to which I respond……..you can see where this goes
What we both discovered over time is that he sometimes finds it difficult to make a simple request for what he would prefer to happen – he disguises this by using logical and reasoned arguments – but often there just isn’t a “best way” there are different options with different consequences, benefits and drawbacks.
So I have learnt to listen to what he is saying
What I mean is when I notice this pattern I might simply stop the conversation and say: “Would you like to express what you would prefer to happen, out of personal preference”
“Yes” he says with a smile
He feels cared for by me in that moment – I took the time to learn about him, listen and hear what is is really saying
Rarely are people able to fully communicate how they really feel about something – in both of the above cases they were expressing fear – but were unable to either articulate or SEE that fear in the moment
Why is it that people find it so difficult to ask for what they want clearly? What is the problem?
Well, when they were Rubie’s age they probably made many hundreds of requests of their parents – and their parents, like my initial response when waking, was to do their best to shut them up so they will go to sleep – the onslaught of requests can be, well, impressive in volume – and it takes a lot for a parent to respond in a calm and balanced way EVERY time.
What normally happens is: “don’t be so stupid, get on with it”, “just go to sleep”, “what NOW!!” and many, many variations, but the child hears allot more than those words, they learn to associate emotional withdrawal with making requests, they begin to wonder, should I really ask? What response will I get? I don’t think I am worth it…..
And we end up, often, at fear
My business partner so smoothly deflects his desire to make a clear request that it took some time for me to SEE it – but over time it became more and more clear, and now, we can work on it together, just as we work on my stuff together.
What I am highlighting here is what REAL Listening looks like – we simply cannot do this without a much deeper understanding of behaviour – how can we really listen to people if we don’t even undertsand them?
Most people just want to be heard, they want someone to really understand them, to SEE them for who they really are.
I have done this many times – just sat, listening to someone, and suddenly they realise that I can SEE them, and I accept them, for their hiding and lying and manipulating, behind the cover up is a child that just wants to be accepted (loved) for who they really are, not who they are pretending to be
Many times have I also sat with people who just talk, and I am pretty confident that if I spoke Chinese half way through they would barely notice – and I’m not talking about the people that talk endlessly (clinging), I’m talking about the pretty average person, so wrapped up in their own emotional rubbish that there is simply no room for anything else – exactly like I was.
We don’t get to skip childhood, emotionally that is, until we have learnt to really undertsand and listen, having dealt with our own stuff we are practically emotional babies, gurgling and rolling around, pretty blind to what is really going on around us, only concerned about our immediate needs.
In todays world a good manager, one who listens, is someone who turns the phone off while you speak, but the reality is, that ain’t listening, not anywhere close.
How can people feel engaged if they don’t even know if someone even hears what they are saying? Impossible.
We have to teach people this stuff, and pretty urgently actually, if we want to make any kind of difference.
We ALL need it
The reality is, your people are practically screaming: Can you HEAR me??