How to Get Someone to Listen

How many times have you caught yourself reacting to someone’s problem with giving advice and found the person quickly shut down on you? It has likely happened to all of us. Often times the more we force our fix on people the more they push away. Also the more we feel the regret in our own lives, the more we want to push someone else not to make the same mistake.

Recently while talking with a young 30 something about to have her first baby girl, I asked her how long she was going to take off work.

She replied, “I am not. I have set up a crib here at work and since it is a family business my Mom is going to come in and help watch her here.”

I wanted to reach over the table and grab her and say, “What are you thinking!! Listen to me! You need that bonding time with that little baby. You need to just hold her and do nothing else. You won’t be able to get that time back!!” It saddened me to think of her missing out on that time.

While I did refrain from reaching over the table to grab her, I did not stop my outburst. With a caring yet forceful voice I said, “from hard-working career mom to hard-working career women I urge you to take that time. You will not get it back!”

As you can imagine, it was not well received. She replied with her reasons for not being able to afford to take time off given she did not have those benefits.

“Your world is about to be rocked!” I remarked. Obviously, I let my internal regrets go too far.

Instantly her body language shut down and signaled to me my comments were unwanted. I quickly realized I had forgotten how I had perceived similar advice of people trying to get me to take twelve weeks instead of six when I had my daughters. I had reflected on how I had worked from home, packed for the newly built house we were moving into, then returned to work upon her being six weeks old. I had returned to work the Monday after the move an emotional wreck.  The stress of all of that had lead to eye twitches, exhaustion, and depression. While I did have some time to bond it had not been enough between all the packing and distractions.  All I had wanted to do was hold my baby girl. She is now 18 and about to leave for college this year. My own internal ugliness and regret was pushed onto her.

While all of that was so real to me I forgot to view how advice from a stranger likely sounded like I thought she was naive. As much as I already knew how important it is to not shove my own mistakes and experience onto someone else, I didn’t approach her as I had been trained.

Sharing wisdom can be a difficult balance. If we don’t share it we feel we aren’t helping. If we do share it before the person is ready we get a reaction from their pride saying to us that they aren’t as naive as we must think they are. We can then take offense when people do not listen to us. So what are we to do with the knowledge we have gained from our own experiences? What can we do to prevent others from hurting by making similar mistakes?

In this instance, after realizing I had reacted versus responded I apologized and asked her to please forgive me. I shared how I remember being in her shoes and hearing all kinds of advice and how it had annoyed me at the time. I went on to say I had just spoken out of my own regrets of not listening to people trying to get me to take twelve weeks instead of six. I didn’t mean to force my opinion the way I did. I explained my story of working from home and moved and how I had wished I had taken that time. When my approach was through a story of my own experience rather than an aggressive instruction, she replied, “It sounds like we do have things in common because I am trying to move into a new house too.”

Her nonverbal cues showed she understood I was speaking out of sincerity and my experience was better received. I then had to let go and know she would choose her own path.

Oftentimes we assume by us telling someone what to do that person will change their outcome. We may think there is something wrong with us that they don’t want to listen to our advice. However, in reality, they are just sitting from a different viewpoint. They may even need time to process what we have shared.

All we can really do is listen ourselves, ask thought-provoking questions, rephrase what we hear them feeling about their situation and how we understand.  We need to discover if they have already searched for answers to their own problems. Once we show we care enough to understand them, only then can we ask if they are open to suggestions. After sharing our experience we then have to let go of what they choose to do with that wisdom. We can not let ourselves get affected by the outcome given that is out of our control.

On the reverse end, when someone gives us advice, we need to remember that it is being served based on that person’s own regrets and experience. It is also typically being shared out of their sincerity and concern so remember to keep our pride in check.

Consider thanking them for their insight and say, “I hear what you are saying and will give some thought to your advice.” We may even want to consider asking them what it is about their experience that makes them feel so passionate as we could learn something from another’s life story.  Ask internally, “is their advice something I should consider?”

In either situation when we actively listen we end up being more connected to other people which gives deeper meaning to life. We also end as healthier versions of ourselves!

Photograph on way to Lake Tahoe from Reno, Nevada

How to Improve Your Relationships

In “Winning with People,” John Maxwell says the best way to be interesting is to be interested.

When is the last time you had someone really listen to you? Who is it that makes you feel heard and interesting? Who gives you their full attention and makes you feel understood?

The person who takes an interest in you makes you feel incredible, don’t they?  You feel heard and seen, finally understood and important! Yet people who have a genuine interest in hearing your life story, digging into the layers of who you are, and work to understand you beyond the surface are hard to find. When you do find them, don’t they make you want to be around them all the time based on how they make you feel?

In counseling, active listening is the key element in what makes people feel better. Just being able to talk with someone who will really listen, not judge and help them feel understood can be a huge step toward healing them. It is very rewarding to see the effects an interested person has on them.

When you first met your spouse, remember how it felt when they wanted to get to know you and you looked directly into each other’s eyes when talking rather than dealing with all the distractions such as a TV, kids interrupting and work demands taking your full attention away from them?  Remember how interested you were in their stories for the first time and how you made the other feel?

As a parent, when you give your kids their full attention and don’t start immediate lecturing and stop to listen fully to them, it is amazing the difference you see in your child.

At work, when a manager listens to an employee’s problems and finds out if they need support or direction many times the employee has solutions to their own problems or may just have needed a sounding board.

When salespeople get a client talking about their business they can go on and on about their passions. Salespeople who show a genuine interest in their client’s business and their life story make the prospect want to see that salesperson again.

On the contrary, lack of listening is one of the key reason’s for marital disputes, children not feeling important to their parents, leadership mistakes and why some salespeople fail. Don’t you hate it when someone does not look into your eyes when you are trying to talk with them? Also, the natural tendency is for people to wait for their turn to talk. We have all been guilty of bad listening and yet hate when someone else doesn’t listen to us.

Active listening is when you are truly engaged in someone else’s story and you seek to understand them. Rather than replying with your own story, instead respond with “it sounds like you (then share what you hear them feeling) are really passionate about x.” You may hear that person say, yes!  That’s right!  I do feel…  If you got their feeling wrong, then you can then have them clarify rather than make the wrong assumption.  The next time someone tells you something, look at what they are telling you like a flower where there is more to discover underneath the petals. When you show you are hearing how that person is feeling watch how it ignites them as they realize you get them. That, in turn, solidifies a connection. Who doesn’t love feeling connected to other people?

You may be asking, but how do I teach other people to listen to me?  Wisdom from many books and therapists say the best way to influence others is when we lead by example. I know it can be frustrating.  Yet isn’t it worth it to improve our relationships?

While active listening can be very hard, it can be learned. It requires being intentional and also takes practice. When we make the concentrated effort to practice this way of listening genuinely and not for manipulation purposes, we will find more fulfilling conversations. We will also see a response in people that will help us enjoy other people’s stories and develop deeper more connected relationships.

Would you like to learn and practice your active listening skills? Join me in becoming a better active listener and please share if you would be interested in participating in a workshop.  Please note in the comments the best times and hours that would work for you.

 

Find Freedom from Controlling Behaviors

It was August of 1997.  I was 24 years old, extremely motivated, and trying to make a living in sales. A business client had called for an appointment and gave me an address regarding where to meet. When I arrived, I said to myself, “This can’t be right.” The address is a house. I called the number again.  The client verified that was the meeting place. According to my notes, there were supposed to be multiple people in this meeting. Again, I said to myself, “Why aren’t there any cars? This doesn’t feel right.”  Convincing myself that I needed the business, I went to the door anyway.

I knocked on the door and the client answered.  I felt somewhat relieved that he answered the door.  I knew him. He had gotten married recently and was very happy when I worked with him a year ago. We had made small talk waiting on the other people to arrive.  He recognized my discomfort due to his shaven head and twitching face. He shared he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and it was very serious.

As time started to lapse, I looked at the clock.  My fiance was going to start wondering where I was.  I had grown even more uncomfortable as time passed.  I wondered how much longer it would take for the others to arrive.  After declining his offer for a glass of water, he asked if I wanted to see the blueprints for the business. Again, I ignored my instincts.  I entered the room to look at the architect table. There was nothing on the table. When I turned to look at the client, he was holding a revolver.

Rather than listening to myself, I ignored my inner voice. As he said “I am not going to kill you or rape you” I turned my head to see the revolver pointed at me. Instantly, I went into hysterics. He closed the door and moved me towards the back of the room.

“Take your clothes off.” He said.

I immediately envisioned myself taking off my clothes and that not being enough for him. I saw images of him asking me to do things I did not want to do and him eventually taking my life. I saw my dead naked body lying on the floor, and my loved ones finding out I was found lifeless and without my clothes in some strange house. I felt if he wanted all that he would have to take my clothes off after I was no longer alive. I said to myself, “My life is not ending this way. I have so many more dreams to fulfill.”

Somehow, I found the power within and decided to reason and plead with him. “Why are you doing this? What about your wife? I am not going to… You can kill me first.”

He replied, “I will cripple you.”

I said, “I don’t care if you kill me or cripple me.”

As he started to explain himself, “It is just that this tumor…” Right then, his twitches in his face and clicks of his head that I had witnessed earlier came back. I continued to plea and refuse to give in to his demands. I noticed that I was emotionally getting to him.

Suddenly, he turned the gun on himself.  While frightened he would take his own life in front of me, I saw my window of opportunity to escape.  Quickly, I went towards him as he backed himself up towards the door.  I grabbed the doorknob with my left hand and was able to wedge it open enough to get my leg in through the opening. Meanwhile, I pushed my right hand towards his face in an attempt to move the gun away from his own mouth. Somehow I was able to get out, grab my bag and keys and run out the door to my car while my whole body was shaking. He did not follow me.  I began driving and frantically called 911. They directed me towards a local fire department for safety. I repeated the story multiple times of how I ended up in that house.

In the end, after police had surrounded his house and tried to get him to come out for hours, he ended his own life that night.

I had made multiple very risky decisions that day.  I was thankful to be alive. I questioned myself. I worried about what people would think.  I thought, “Why was I so gullible? Why did he pick me?  Was there something I did that made me seem vulnerable?” I could never even face his wife to see how she handled all of it. I felt sad for her and envisioned him being sorry for what he had done to me. Truth is, I will never really know why or fully understand. Why would anyone choose to sabotage someone else’s life?

Often times, people attempt to control others when they feel powerless in their own lives.  The more we feel we have lost control, the more we want to try and control others.

After talking to my sister-in-law who is well versed in mental health, she helped me understand it was not my fault.  Being able to talk with someone helped me be able to focus on what could come from the experience. She helped me understand that some brain tumors cause irrational behavior. It was not about me. I was proud of how I had been brave enough to escape. I also learned that I need to listen to my gut instincts.

When sharing my story, some questioned why I didn’t just do what he said. You may even be questioning some of the same things and wonder why I am sharing this story.

While I was not a victim of rape, I felt the extreme case of having someone try to control me by force at a relatively young age.  I felt the side effects. My purpose is not to gain pity here. My purpose is to increase awareness and help you prevent being controlled. To teach you how to stop your own ineffective habits of controlling behaviors.    There are some lessons to be learned from this story, and others I have experienced in my life as both the victim and the controller.

Through professional help and research, I have learned how to identify signs of controlling behavior,  the reasons behind it, how to overcome situations of being controlled and recognize when I am the person doing the controlling.

Identify Situations of Controlling Behavior

Understanding Control and Abuse

How to Escape Controlling Behavior

Help for The Controller

What do you do when someone doesn’t do what you want? What style do you use with your children? Your spouse? Your employees? If you notice you are controlling as defined above, seek counseling if necessary. Uncover why you feel you need to have power over people.

If you are a manager that struggles with not being able to get their employees to do what is needed, don’t fall back on using forceful, threatening or demeaning remarks. It has negative effects on the person’s morale and kills the person’s desire to want to work for you.  While it is important to hold people accountable, it is ineffective in the long run to add demeaning comments that take a strike at the person’s worth. Rather than saying “you are lazy” a more constructive way of motivating someone would be to say, “You are not showing your full potential.  You are capable of so much more.”

For those in leadership, are you keeping an eye on how your managers treat those working for you?  What about how they treat your business partner representatives?  How they treat people is a reflection of your company’s image and could be costly to your business in turnover, your reputation with customers and maybe even lawsuits.  Be sure to have your employees do anonymous surveys.  Have someone secret shop, play vendor or play undercover boss for the day if you suspect anyone who could threaten your company’s values.

Whether you are the controller or being controlled, help is available.  You are worthy of so much more.  No one deserves to be treated as beneath another person.  You deserve to be treated with respect.  Be sure to look yourself in the mirror and reassure yourself of all your incredible traits.  Make a list of all your great qualities to reframe your mind and maintain your boundaries.  You have the right to have your own value system and maintain your self-worth.  Be brave enough to address the problem.  If safety is a concern, find support. Find freedom from this controlling behavior.

Other resources:

For more help with a controlling partner, I recommend Dr. Bonier’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201506/20-signs-your-partner-is-controlling

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people

For more help handling Aggressive and Controlling people see Preston’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people:

Southbrook counseling – https://southbrook.org/ministries/

Boundaries By Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Www.ndvh.org

If you are a victim of Sexual Violence or Trauma, please seek your local counseling services.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the best way to handle yourself in a sexual assault situation or when someone is threatening your life.  Please see http://www.rainn.org or NSVRC. or http://www.cdc.gov

National Domestic Violence Hotline and Avon Partner with Suze Orman to Shed Light on Financial Abuse in Special Video Series “Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence”

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis text: 741741

If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area, schedule free counseling by email: counseling@southbrook.org

To share inspiring stories or be referred to a Professional Counselor email: everythingforthesoul@gmail.com

 

Leadership for the Soul

 

Mindtools.com says “Leadership can be hard to define and it means different things to different people. In the transformational leadership model, leaders set direction and help themselves and others to do the right thing to move forward. To do this they create an inspiring vision, and then motivate and inspire others to reach that vision.”

How is that done?

You may have heard the quote, “no one cares about how much you know unless they know how much you care.”  Can you be defined as a leader if you don’t ever get followers?  It seems the best leaders show how much they care about their mission.  Then the ones who show they care about their people get the most people on board.

Think of the best leaders in ancient wars.  Those who you see in the movies that are charging ahead of their troops to fight a battle.  The ones who get out in front.  They are in the trenches with their people.  When you see that in a movie, doesn’t it ignite your passion internally to want to see their side win?

Besides leading the way, how else do those leaders get people on board?  We see characteristics as being comfortable in their own skin, confident in who they are, strong in their decision making, have integrity and base decisions on the betterment of all their people.  They make their team feel valued that someone else is willing to fight on their behalf.  It makes them all want to win together.

What kind of leader are you?  How do you show you care about your people? When your people are trying to voice what they are experiencing in the trenches, do you shut them down?  If so, instead:

  • Work to listen and understand if it is a legitimate concern.
  • Rephrase what you are hearing them feel.
  • Ask what have you tried?
  • What were the results?
  • Ask what are your recommended options?
  • Ask how do you want to be part of the solution?
  • Do you know any others that are feeling the same way and would you want to help come up with ideas to fix it?

This approach will help your people feel heard and opinions valued.  Also, it weeds out the negative thinkers.  Those who want to complain but not help fix the problem.

When you make them feel heard rather than force top-down thinking and respond in ways where they feel they can’t trust being honest, you risk not getting valuable information for an effective strategy.  Also if you don’t understand them and what they are going through, how are you going to provide the adequate tools for them to handle the battle.  Shutting them down before understanding them says to them, “your opinions don’t matter”.  “Your views are not valued enough.”

If you feel they don’t understand the big picture from their feedback, it also tells you they don’t understand the vision.  In that case, you may need to clarify it and get them on board with why what you are asking is important.

Most people want to feel they are doing the right thing and will work more passionately for those who care for them.   Care for your people by empathizing with them and coach them how to become their best and you will have an army helping you accomplish your vision.

Photo taken at Lake Tahoe