Listen and Learn.

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.
Larry King.

We all like to be heard. What we think and feel we want to be able to express to others and when we can do it freely we feel better and happier. We all recognize this and appreciate how important it is, so why when we have all this understanding and insight do we frequently fail to truly listen to what others want to say?
Perhaps it is because we feel that we are too busy or under too much pressure to waste time listening to what someone else thinks as we believe we already know the best decision or outcome? Or perhaps, we are too focused on what we need to do next that we simply do not take the time to listen before moving on to our next task or job. We just want to be able to tick off that we have dealt with the matter and move on.
The problem with this strategy is that more often than not we haven’t dealt with anything successfully. All we have really done by communicating in this manner is to potentially create more stress for the future.
Too often when we think that we are communicating we are in fact just barking out orders to others or we are defending ourselves from perceived criticism from others. This sort of communication can end up with us going round and round in circles trying to make our point and failing to do so. All that happens is that we end up feeling more and more exasperated, fed up and no further forward.
We are all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives and the solution to all the frustration and angst that this type of behavior causes us it really simple and straightforward. If we feel that we are not being heard rather than shouting louder and louder we need to stop and listen to what those around us are saying before we can then calmly answer them and express how we are feeling. Good communication requires all parties to be silent at some point and listen to what the others are saying before they actually respond. If we try to get our view over without paying attention to their views we are simply wasting our time. Seldom has anyone ever personally achieved anything constructive or made themselves feel better just by overriding the views of those close to them and imposing their own on any situation.
If we want to be happy, successful and content then it is simply essential to be a good listener. When we spend time listening to others they respect us more and will in turn spend time listening to us when we need them to. We can learn so much from hearing what those close to us have to say and that can help us to grow closer to those we love and to grow stronger as a person. As American psychologist Karl A Menninger once said:
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Sometimes when we feel that we are not being listened to, we ourselves are also not actually listening. The only way to resolve or at least attempt to resolve this type of situation, is to stop trying to get our own point across and spend time hearing what those we believe are ignoring us, are really saying .If once we have listened to them we still feel they are not letting us respond or take our view in to account we need to make a decision about whether they are the right people to surround ourselves with. Either way just by listening we gain knowledge and that always makes us stronger.
If we find that we are the ones who have allowed ourselves to get in to the bad habit of not truly listening and communicating well to those around us, we simply need to decide to stop and change how we have been responding to others and handling things.
It is not difficult as we all have the ability inside us to be able to make such positive changes when we can see the benefit of doing so and know that by changing we will feel better and more in control. We all must learn how to make positive choices in life if we desire happiness. None of us should stick with bad habits or poor strategies that do not work well simply because they take time and a bit of effort to change. That is simply daft and most definitely not a recipe for success. Being able to be flexible enough to adapt and change makes life happier, as we learn what works best for us and for those around us. As I always say though, the choice and the power to make positive life changes lies solely within ourselves. No one can do it for us and we can hold no one responsible other than ourselves if we don’t change when we need to. We all need to learn to make changes today, even if only small positive, ones for a happier tomorrow.

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Do I know what you are thinking ?

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It is amazing how many mind readers that I have met this week. People with psychic abilities that can tell ,just by looking at their partner or loved ones even people on the street, exactly what it is they are thinking ,feeling and even what it is that they are about to say.

They apparently know when they are being sarcastic or critical, hurt or offended, angry, sad, content, happy, flirtatious or dismissive just by watching them. They are so confident about this that they immediately respond in a manner they feel is appropriate to the mood they believe they are observing. Quite remarkable really and impressive if it was really true, however the problem is that it seldom is, true or accurate or helpful. In fact what usually happens when someone attempts to mind read another  ,they get it wrong .They personalise  how someone is looking at them based upon their own thoughts and feeling when they look  at someone that particular way .They imagine thoughts like they have or are having internally  as they pre judge what the person is truly thinking. Problems always arise when relying on this method of communication with another .It doesn’t actually show how close you are to another if you choose to do this; to me it actually shows a lack of consideration and respect. Both for yourself and for the person that you are choosing to mind read. Neither of these attributes are desirable in a healthy, happy relationship.

I don’t care how long you have known someone and how close you are to them, there is always going to be a time when you judge their mood or thoughts and be wrong. That is unfair  both on them and on yourself .There is no substitute, no quicker way to actually know what someone is thinking, than to stop and really listen to what they are saying. There is a definite need in any good relationship, to spend time communicating and talking to each other. Not as you run past each other on the way out to work or for that matter any other time when you are partly preoccupied doing something else as that too is a recipe for disaster. To communicate in this harassed way is a sure fire way to create problems in any relationship. People need time to explain themselves fully and this cannot be done to someone’s back as they  walk out the door, or run for the bus ,deal with the children ,the messages or any other distraction.

Time is needed to just sit and connect or even reconnect and to explore what both of you are truly thinking and feeling. If something has been said that has come across as hurtful or antagonistic, time is needed to actually explain things a bit more fully before deciding how to react to it. Everything worth doing takes practice and communication is no different. We need to consciously decide that we are going to be good listeners and make the effort to positively follow through with that decision. We need to set aside time for the people we care about to hear what they are thinking and feeling in order to develop healthy, happy and more fulfilling relationships. If we leave mind reading for Fairgrounds and magic shows we can concentrate on truly improving our lives. Simply put anytime we spend developing this quality adds to our character strengths and makes life a bit easier and happier for us all.

As British actress Emma Thompson once wisely said “Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn’t listening.”

Keeping it simple

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When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

Gilbert K Chesterton

Recently there has been much debate in our house over going on holiday. Whether I should or I shouldn’t and who to go with and where to go? Not normally something that would be debated but two years ago one of our much loved dogs was very ill and almost died. Since then he has been on regular medication and I have been anxious about leaving him with anyone else. The youngest dog also has strong attachment issues to me and this has added to the guilt I would feel leaving him to go away for a holiday abroad. This was not a problem when all members of the family lived at home as I could have gone knowing they were safely being cared for by others that knew and loved them as much as me. The dilemma this year has arisen because the holiday was to be with my eldest girl and her partner and involved asking her sister to move back home and watch the dogs for two weeks as well as getting my elderly mother to come daily to dog sit. Everyone agreed to it and yet I found myself still anxious and debating whether this was fair on the people involved and the dogs, which are also very much part of my family. There have been heated debates about priorities, mine, and lengthy discussions. Then I got a cold. Not any cold but one which knocked me totally off my feet and worse still stole my voice. All of a sudden all the debates had to stop. I could not even answer the phone. I realised how for granted I took the simple act of speaking. In fact I realised just how much I enjoyed communicating with others on a daily basis. The phone calls to friends or family. The evening discussions I enjoy with my husband about the day’s events or just sitting chatting to my clients about all that had been happening in their lives. All no longer possible as any words coming out of my mouth were reduced to a soft squeak and even attempting that was too painful. Plenty of rest and no talking was what was advised. My middle daughter came over to take me for lunch and we collected her younger sister from the train to give her someone to chat to. In the restaurant I found myself indicating no more pepper to a bewildered waiter by placing my hand over my soup bowl and getting it covered in pepper! I had tried saying enough but he had not understood my squeak and had instead kept on sprinkling. Despite not being able to reply my daughters happily chatted away asking me questions to which they already had decided my reply. “This place is great isn’t it Mum”? ”Yes of course it is you love it don’t you “, “This is fun we really should do it more often” “We will get Julie (the eldest) down next time” And the boys and Dad make it a family regular thing they decided. On and on they chattered and suddenly it came to me that I was sitting their feeling frustrated about not being able to join in the discussions and feeling a little hard done to when the real joy was in listening to them. I actually had been given the chance to sit and hear, really hear what they felt about the things that were happening in their lives, in the world and because I couldn’t speak I didn’t need to voice my opinion. This was a unique experience and opportunity for me. Generally I see my role as the” problem” fixer and I realise now that often I would be listening to issues affecting family, friends etc. and actually be  waiting for my chance to say “now here is what I think you should do”. By sitting listening to my daughters chat I had the opportunity to see how they handled and solved their own problems .Not that I think I am now redundant, it is more that I think I now have a better respect for their own capabilities and may now occasionally, just occasionally mind you, keep my mouth shut and let them figure things out their own way. Having no voice has made me a better listener and I feel that I have learned a lot. I have had to find different ways of communicating what I mean and to be more flexible. But, most of all I think that I have learned not to get too bogged down in the specifics of life and trying to control every small aspect. There really seems to be little point in worrying too much about the future when life can change on a daily basis. Hopefully my voice will return soon but its loss has made me appreciate that I cannot control all aspects of my life, no one can and why really would we want to? In our lives we will all have to cope with change. I realise that I am not actually very good with accepting change or things I cannot control. Losing my voice I initially found incredibly frustrating and yet it has had hidden learning for me. I have decided to use that to practice being a bit more flexible and try to actually allow myself to go more with the flow of life and enjoy where it takes me. So every cloud they say has a silver lining and I very much think that learning may actually be mine.