Regardless of culture, gender, age, profession…everybody seeks to be understood from his or her point of view. When we share our thoughts and feelings we don’t want logic, advice, reasons, or judgment. We also don’t want to be ignored, denied, or taken lightly. When we share thoughts and feelings, it is because we are looking for an understanding.
Normally, when we just get intellectual listening, we do not feel satisfied. What we crave is an understanding that comes from the heart with warmth and care. Listening is the partner skill to expressing. If we have difficulties listening we probably also have difficulties expressing.
We have been taught that having “negative” feelings is not a good thing; we should not have it. We have difficulties in sharing our thoughts and feelings, especially when we have different, strong emotions and thoughts from our peers.
In general, we have been trained that thoughts attached with strong emotions are not appropriate to share. We mistakenly think that we are less worthy, or less mature, if we have such feelings. But reality is, relationships are part of life, and conflicts are part of relationships, whether these relationships are of work, marriage, or friendship.
In the workplace it is not uncommon to experience a repression of strong feelings, which can lead to a blowup. Conflicts bring up strong feelings and thoughts, and if we don’t learn how to express such feelings, they will not go away, but actually grow. In any relationship where strong feelings and thoughts are repressed, or treated with disrespect, ultimately understanding is not achieved, therefore good listening and communication is not happening.
Studies have shown that behavior modification just doesn’t happen with a few easy steps, but is more part of a process. Communication and listening skills are part of a process of internal growth. When we want to have any internal or external modification, the more efficient way to establish the changes we want is to start by having an honest assessment. Let us start by paying attention and listening to our own selves and our environment. When do we react? When do we not listen? When do we feel not listened to? Do we have a tendency to judge others or ourselves? Do we deny our own thoughts and feelings? When is it that I react strongly? When we know well what we are doing and understand why, the steps of practicing new skills becomes more meaningful and effective.