Post by Fawn on Jan 12, 2022 6:35:38 GMT -8
From the book: Why Won't You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts -- by Harriet Lerner PhD
It’s incredibly difficult to listen to someone’s pain when that someone is accusing us of causing it. We automatically listen for and react to what is unfair and incorrect. To listen with an open heart and ask questions to better help us understand the other person is a spiritual exercise, in the truest sense of the word.
HOW TO DIAL DOWN YOUR DEFENSIVENESS
I was taught in graduate school that listening is a passive process, but this is not true. Listening is an intensely active process, and one that comes far less naturally than talking. There is no greater challenge than that of listening without defensiveness, especially when we don’t want to hear what the other person is telling us.
It’s impossible to overstate how difficult it is to shift out of defensive mode. When someone approaches us in an angry or critical way, our automatic set point is listening for what we don’t agree with. It’s so automatic that it takes motivation, courage, and goodwill to observe our defensiveness and practice stepping aside from it.
Non-defensive listening is at the heart of offering a sincere apology. Here are twelve points to keep in mind when we’re on the receiving end of criticism.
1. Recognize your defensiveness. We are wired to go immediately into defensive mode when criticized. Becoming aware of our defensiveness can give us a tiny, crucial bit of distance from it. We are listening defensively when we listen for what we don’t agree with. Catch yourself when you are focusing on the inaccuracies, distortions, and exaggerations that inevitably will be there.
2. Breathe. Defensiveness starts in the body, making us tense and on guard, unable to take in new information. Do what you can to calm yourself. Take slow and deep breaths.
3. Listen only to understand. Listen only to discover what you can agree with. Do not interrupt, argue, refute, or correct facts, or bring up your own criticisms and complaints. If your points are legitimate, that’s all the more reason to save them for a different conversation, when they can be a focus of conversation and not a defense strategy.
4. Ask questions about whatever you don’t understand. When the criticism is vague (“I feel you don’t respect me”), ask for a concrete example. (“Can you give me another example where you felt I was putting you down?”) This will add to your clarity and show the other party that you care about understanding her. Note: Asking for specifics is not the same thing as nitpicking—the key is to be curious, not to cross-examine. Don’t act like a lawyer, even if you are one.
5. Find something you can agree with. You may only agree with 7 percent of what the other person is saying, and still find a point of commonality. (“I think you’re right that I was totally hogging the conversation the other night.”) If you can’t find anything to agree with, thank the other person for their openness, and let them know that you’ll be thinking about what they’ve told you.
6. Apologize for your part. It will indicate to the critical party that you’re capable of taking responsibility, not just evading it. It will also help shift the exchange out of combat into collaboration. Save your thoughts about their part until later.
7. Let the offended party know he or she has been heard and that you will continue to think about the conversation. Even if nothing has been resolved, tell the other person that she’s reached you. (“It’s not easy to hear what you’re telling me, but I want you to know that I’m going to give it a lot of thought.”) Take time to genuinely consider her point of view.
8. Thank the critical person for sharing his or her feelings. Relationships require that we take such initiative, and express gratitude where the other person might expect mere defensiveness. (“I appreciate your telling me this. I know it couldn’t have been easy.”) In this way we signal our commitment to the relationship.
9. Take the initiative to bring the conversation up again. Show the other person that you are continuing to think about her point of view and that you are willing to revisit the issue. (“I’ve been thinking about our conversation last week and I’m really glad that we had that talk. I’m wondering if there’s more you haven’t told me.”)
10. Draw the line at insults. There may be a time to sit through an initial blast, but not if rudeness has become a pattern in your relationship rather than an uncommon occurrence. Exit from rudeness while offering the possibility of another conversation. (“I want to hear what bothers you, but I need you to approach me with respect.”)
11. Don’t listen when you can’t listen well. It’s fine to tell the other person that you want to have the conversation and that you recognize its importance, but you can’t have it right now. If you’re closing the conversation, suggest a specific window of time to resume it. (“I can’t absorb what you’re saying now. Let’s come back to it tomorrow when I’ll be able to give you my full attention.”)
12. Define your differences. You need to tell the critical person how you see things differently, rather than being an overly accommodating, peace-at-any-price type of person who apologizes to avoid conflict. Even if the other person isn’t able to consider your point of view, you may need to hear the sound of your own voice saying what you really think. Timing is crucial, so consider saving your different point of view for a future conversation when you’ll have the best chance of being heard.
Words of apology, no matter how sincere, will not heal a broken connection if we haven’t listened well to the hurt party’s anger and pain.