It is really hard to listen to people. We hear the words that come out of face holes, but to truly listen to what someone needs is difficult. Even when we think we are paying attention to what someone is saying, it doesn’t inherently mean that we understand where they are coming from.
Communication is the most common theme of relationship problems. We are all clouded by subjectivity, so during conversations we tend to focus on our own opinions more than the other person’s. Yet when you exist under this lens of “how do your wants affect me and my wants?” it is impossible to actually connect to the desires of the other person.
It is challenging to clear your mind of yourself because the self is so persistently chatting in your head. The ego is as relentless as virgin at a porn convention – it just can’t get enough stimulation. The challenge then becomes how to have meaningful conversations with people where you are actually listening to each other and honoring the varying perspectives.
As a parent it is really easy to bulldoze over your child’s wishes and ignore the substance of what they are trying to ask for. For one, the way they ask is sometimes annoying as fuck. Kids will whine/stomp/yell/cry/hit if you don’t agree with them, and their compromising skills are still being developed. Their discontent can feel tyrannical because they have no patience to explain their perspective. They also often want things that are fucking outrageous. The Munch will feel totally justified to scream and kick the floor because I won’t build her a candy house. Since kids so often approach you in this irrational hyper-emotional way, it is easy to forget that sometimes their requests are totally reasonable.
The Munch had her birthday the other day, and she wanted to watch Cinderella while I made her breakfast. I never let her watch things in the morning, but figured it was her birthday, so why not make a special occasion. Yet while she was watching Cinderella she was thirsty and wanted some water.
Munch: Mamma, can you get me some water?
Munch: With a straw?
Toni: Oaky fine. Here you go. But you have to drink it here in the kitchen.
Munch: But I am watching Cinderella…
Toni: Yeah but I don’t want you to have a cup of water next to my computer because it could spill.
Munch: But I will be really careful. I don’t spill it.
Toni: I know you will be careful, but accidents happen. If you spilled water on my computer you would ruin my computer and Apple care wouldn’t fix it. I can’t let take that risk. My computer is my life, as pathetic as that is.
Munch: But Mom I am really thirsty! It is so hot outside!!!
Toni: Well just pause Cinderella and come get water when you want it!
Munch: But then I will just have to keep coming into the kitchen.
Toni: Okay, I have an idea. Come. Let’s bring the water into my office, and I will pur the water here. On the table over here.
Munch: But I still have to keep getting up!
Toni: Dude… you have to get up, but you are in the same room?
Munch: Mom I just want to have the water next to me!! Wahhhaaaahhhhaaaa
Toni: Okay, you are not listening. No more Cinderella.
I took the computer away, and of course The Munch started to cry. I felt bad because it was her birthday and hot as balls. I could understand being thirsty and not wanting to get up, but I also really didn’t want a cup of water next to my reason for living…. Uh, I mean just a meaningless piece of technology.
Toni: Munch, come here. Lets have a cuddle and talk.
Munch: Mamma, I really want to watch Cinderella.
Toni: I hear you. But I really don’t want water that could be spilled next to my computer. It is expensive and important to me.
Munch: But I wasn’t going to spill it and I really didn’t want to get up that many times because then I would miss Cinderella and I would get even more sweaty!
Toni: Wait a minute…. I have a solution. We could get one of your water bottles with a straw, and then you could have the water bottle next to you, drink from a straw, but I wouldn’t have to be nervous about my computer!
The solution was obvious, but I wasn’t thinking of one because I was being narrow-minded in my own logic. I knew what I didn’t want, and that felt more important than what Munch wanted. Yet when I took a minute to really listen to her, we came up with a resolution that fit both of our needs.