We all just want to be heard right?
We all feel like we are interesting and we have important things to say and we just want someone to listen to us.
I see it all the time online and in person and in articles and in books and on TV. It's universal. We all just want to say what we think and have someone listen.
Number one reason marriages fail? Lack of communication. That lack of communication can then manifest itself in to other things that look like the reason the marriage failed. Infidelity. Money issues. Disagreements in how to raise the kids, where to buy a house, when to change jobs, on and on. But at the root of all of those other problems? Lack of communication. If you aren't talking to each other, and listening to each other then problems happen. Then the problems get to be so big that they can't be fixed just by listening. Not anymore.
Think of the last big argument you had with a friend. What caused it? Why did it get so big? At any point did you say, or feel like saying, YOU AREN'T LISTENING TO ME!
Because that's the real key right? Not just that we all want to talk, but that someone needs to listen. Not just wait their turn to talk.
Just witnessed an online exchange where someone went in and erased all of their offensive posts so it looked like they were being attacked out of the blue by people who disagreed with their original post. Then they get to play the victim, you weren't listening to me! You are just so mean, you filled in your own nasty thoughts when I didn't say anything like that! Well except you did. And they took screen shots of one of the worst so now what? You shared. We listened. You're an asshole.
But how often does that equivalent happen in the off line world? Where you are in an argument with someone and they try to tell you that they never said what ever horrible thing it is that they said. You can't screen shot it, or rewind the tape to prove it, so it becomes an even bigger fight. You said that, you know you did. Own what you said or I stop listening to you.
And when we stop listening to each other we stop caring about each other.
Politics has its own special way of dealing (not dealing?) with this. On the right you get the people who refuse to talk about issues. There is no racism. We will not talk about it because by talking about it you cause it. You are the problem! On the left you have people who are so concerned with the "correct" way to talk about it that they end up doing the same thing. We can't really say racism because that's a trigger word and anyone who has ever suffered from an incident could get really scared if you say that word, so... So what? Now we either refuse to talk about it or we have to be so careful in how we talk about it that we give up? Both of those options lead to the same road. Nobody talking, nobody listening, and nobody fixing things. And both sides yelling that it's the other side's fault.
Then there are the times where politicians apparently weren't even listening to themselves talk. Meet the Press back in the Tim Russert days was brilliant at this. He would interview someone on an issue and then pull up their own quotes about the same issue that were the opposite of what they were currently saying. Oh how I miss that man. The Daily Show has filled that gap a bit, but since they are doing it as comedy and outrageousness it's not quite the same punch as seeing the person sitting right there confronted with their own words. Are you listening to yourself? Why do you expect us to listen to what you are saying when you don't really even believe it yourself?
Then there is the lie.
When you have taken the time to listen. Really listen to someone. And you find out that they have lied to you? How inclined are you to ever truly listen again? You might try. You might really give it a go, but there is that voice in the back of your head that snarks here and there..."Oh really? Are you sure? Is this true? Not like you would ever lie to me right?" How many times can someone lie to you before you stop ever listening to what they say? Sure, you hear them, you acknowledge them, you might even find them interesting, but are you really listening?
So next time you are watching an interaction, say a round table discussion or a televised debate, pay attention, really listen. And see if the people involved are really listening to each other. Or if they are just waiting for their turn to talk.
The next time your child wants to tell you about their day really focus in and listen to them instead of just waiting for them to take a breath so you can remind them of whatever chore needs done.
The next time your spouse shares a story about their day look up from your phone, stop thinking about what's for dinner and listen.
And when you have something to say to someone? Make sure you believe it yourself. Make sure it really is the truth. Make sure it's something you want them to hear.