to Listen –
I have a friend who had a tough conversation earlier this week with one of the leaders at her work. It was a conversation long overdue but oftentimes these are easier to avoid than begin. Part of the challenge is the fact that once a grievance is aired, it can’t be taken back. If the person is caught unawares the conversation can get uncomfortable, quick! Another risk is the recipient might also see this time as an opportunity to unload something they’ve been holding back.
However, this wasn’t my friend’s experience. Her perception of the conversation was that the other wasn’t listening. There wasn’t much feedback or input from the other party. They sat there, injected a few words, and then moved on to another topic before ending the conversation. My friend was frustrated because nothing was solved and the subject will have to be addressed again.
Wisdom teaches us that; “Listening is not agreeing.” Too often, when someone confronts us, challenges our way of thinking, we become aggressive and want to prove to them and our ourselves we are right in our thinking. So, instead of listening while they are talking, understanding and evaluating what they have to say, we are too busy planning what we are going to say next in our minds. We don’t listen and aren’t open to something that might be said which we need to hear. Even if, as we carefully and contemplatively listen, don’t find something we can at least show the other person what they say matters.
Listening is not agreeing but it is allowing the other person to be and have a worldview which might not be ours but is respected because we honor them.
Last night I had to confront someone on a bad decision they had made. It wasn’t easy. I’m not one for confrontation. I would rather build someone up, encourage them, congratulate them on their progress than look another person in the eye and tell them they’ve made a bad decision. However, this is what friends, mentors, leaders need to do and refusal would mean to abdicate our responsibility.
This gentleman is in one of my incarcerated father groups and he chose to get in a fight with another man in his pod after the two had unkind words with each other. As a result he has to serve thirty days in the maximum facility portion of the jail. I had heard about the scuffle before he came to class so after he came in I found a moment to ask him about it. This big man, six inches taller and quite a bit wider than me, quickly looked down at his feet and admitted what he had done. “You’ve got to make good choices!” I told him. “Good decision lead you to better places, bad ones bring you here, to stay.” He shook his head and told me he was sorry and that I was right. We didn’t have time to talk about it longer but set up a time to connect next week.
Confrontation, butting heads with someone, going toe to toe, eye to eye isn’t easy but at times is necessary. However, this can’t be the end of the conversation. When we sit down and speak about the matter I will encourage, remind him of his progress, how far he’s come and that he’s smart enough and good enough to learn from a poor decision and keep moving forward.