I watched a slightly painful exchange between two moms the other day.
One was sharing how "exhausting" her "wild" toddler was. "I love her to death, but . . ."
The other had the best intentions of listening, but was already on what felt like a slightly judgy soap box about why toddlers should be given freedom to be wild. "Wait but let me ask you something, what's the worst that's going to happen if you let him run free . . ."
You have experienced this, yes?
We are inherently good and we really crave love and connection, but sometimes our personal experience is so gripping, so strong, that we are quite clear that WE KNOW what someone else needs to hear. ESPECIALLY where their kids are concerned.
I mean, I am a mindset coach for mothers, for God's sake, so clearly this is a slippery slope for me.
I will say, there are certain people in my life whom I've felt more comfortable flinging judgment towards, and when I've checked myself, it's been pretty awk to look in the mirror. I've had many opportunities to recognize I've projected my own experience, beliefs, ideals on someone else (whether to their face or behind their back). Uggg. Being human is so confusing.
Holding ourselves accountable is the first step.
One way to check yourself: If you find yourself giving someone "advice" before you've heard the words, "Can I ask you for some advice?" remind yourself, you're essentially just projecting. You're projecting your own beliefs, opinions, bad experiences, good experiences, challenges and lessons hard-earned on someone who has a different life and doesn't see the world through your lens (oh and calling it “advice”). On a subconscious level, we WANT to earn our own hard lessons! While counter-intuitive, it is gratifying to come out the other side of an earth lesson wiser, evolved, and with a fresh perspective. Don't rob someone of that process, just because you already graduated to the next challenge.
It's not that your lens is bad or wrong, either. It's awesome - to guide YOU! So what do you give to someone else, while still respecting this newfound truth? Your undivided attention. The gift of hearing what she's actually asking for.
So back to those moms . . .
I was listening quite intently to their whole exchange, and I could feel it was subtly escalating. Mom #1 was feeling backed into a corner and like she had to defend herself. Mom #2 was feeling she was passing on sage advice while also looking out for children that were not hers.
And while mom #1 didn't explicitly ask, "Can I ask you for a judgment-free space to express the human experience I'm having?" I heard the ask in her story.
I finally interrupted, "Hey, of course we know you love your kid and are doing what you think is best. Of course you're allowed to say that it feels hard and exhausting. Of course you get to feel those feels. We hear you. We've been there. This shit is hard sometimes. Sometimes I want to go to bed at 4pm and my girls are not even that wild. No judgment, girl."
PHEW. All the tension in the room dissipated. Both moms shook loose the battle of the wills and were back to the genuinely wonderful humans they truly are.
What my coaching training and experience has taught me is that people THINK they need to give or get advice but what they actually WANT is to just be heard or to listen well. They need the space to unload all the things so they can hear their deepest wisdom - and it's seriously hard to hear that when your mind is being hijacked by anxiety, fear, uncertainty, worry, other people's perceived judgments . . .
So I'm challenging you to listen. To truly listen in your conversations. And when you sense the other person feels the relief and release of being heard, give them what they truly asked for instead of jumping in to save (or correct) them.
Subtle shift. Huge difference.
This post originally appeared on www.shinyhappyhuman.com.