My father is a very kind man. He’s the kind of man that will stop on the side of the road in the freezing cold and give a homeless person his own expensive coat, some food and a ride. He’s the kind of man that is passionate about just about everything and it is always heard in the sheer octave of his voice. As a child, it used to scare me when I heard my Dad raise his voice. No matter the context because I didn’t understand what being passionate looked and sounded like. I always thought he was upset, until I saw for myself that he was just excited because the Cowboys scored a touchdown or Tyson just won the fight by TKO. My being scared that he was upset eventually turned into me laughing at my Dad’s larger than life responses. But when he really was upset, you had better run!
Have you ever had someone in your life telling you the same thing over and over, maybe with more intensity each time they said it? The thought of “Why are you so angry? Why are you hollering?” coming to mind in the moment? When I was younger I could never understand why my Dad hollered so much. That is until I got older and understood that he was responding as most humans do, when they don’t feel like they are being heard. We turn up the volume, most times with more passion each time. When my husband and I are having conversations that we are equally bothered by or passionate about we start to raise our voice in agreement with the other. Our three year old walks into the room nearly every time and says, “Mom, Dad! It’s OKAY! Calm down!” Not realizing that we aren’t actually arguing, but instead emphatically agreeing with each other.
I inherited my father’s passionate spirit in this case, which has in some areas cost me greatly and in others has been my saving grace. In the terms of people knowing where I stand on just about anything, there’s usually never even a sliver of doubt, but in terms of people thinking I’m a hot headed, temperamental so and so, it has bitten me firmly in the backside. I have spent many a nights up wondering why people see me as so volatile and expendable as a person in their lives, when I really do care so much about everyone. I am usually outspoken, but my intentions are always from a place of love and concern for those around me, and I wonder why it is that they can’t see it.
Not very long ago, I was struggling immensely with some past issues that always seem to somehow make themselves all too relevant when I need them to be the very least. I mulled over the issue again and again wondering why this was bothering me so much and attacking my mind as it was. Like every other time, a lightbulb went off and it all came together. I hadn’t been truly heard in the situation. So my brain was responding in kind by perpetually replaying the scenarios on a constant loop, in which I felt afflicted.
The thing I’ve noticed the most in growing up with technology growing even faster is, as a society we’ve stopped learning how to listen to each other. We don’t answer our phones, we reply with texts. We send emails when our issues may deserve the benefit of conversation whether face to face or ear to ear. We listen with the intent to respond and to defend and we hoard the opinions of outsiders like they are Ten Commandments. We don’t listen to truly understand. That saying of “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” sticks out as valid. I’m just as guilty as the next person of using the written method when interacting with people. For one, writing is what I do. And second, I have never been good at effectively expressing my feelings in a way that doesn’t come across as too bold or off-putting, other than through writing. But in the instances that have been plaguing my mind and emotions for over a year now, I wonder how quickly they could have been resolved had anyone been open to listen with the intent to understand.
In this wonderful yet destructive digital age, when people get upset or hurt you they take the jabs with their thumbs and then hide out and never have to face or hear a possibly unfavorable response. The problem with this type of conflict resolution (or lack thereof) is that in reality, we HAVE to face people. We HAVE to face our troubles. We don’t have the luxury of running away from issues and expecting them to resolve themselves. It keeps us stagnate and from moving forward, but instead being stuck in that loop of frustration. On the other side, the afflicting party never receives the chance to truly feel understood either. So everyone loses.
It’s the easy way out to light a flame and leave never looking back at the destruction caused from the fire. The ones who walk away feel a sense of freedom in “knowing they were right,” because they never stopped to hear that they weren’t. They never paused to see the reaction or feel the other person’s pain and realize they’ve wounded someone. In essence it frees them from the consequences to their actions.
In this, I think about my kids and how life would be if they did something they weren’t supposed to, and were allowed to just walk away never facing repercussions. I think of who I would have grown up to be if my parents had raised me without receiving consequence when I did something harmful, hurtful or just plain wrong. When a person strikes the flame and then walks away, the ones left behind are tasked to put out the fire on their own. Now what if the person with the tools to put out this flame was the very one who walked away not having seen the chaos that ensued as they left? This is similar to what happens when we as people forget our humanity and don’t allow others their voice. When we do this we take the tools of forgiveness and closure with us and leave the others to scurry around frantically looking for a way to be whole again. A way to be heard. When none are listening though, how can this be accomplished? It reminds me of those gallon pots for cooking pasta with the little colander holes for draining, on the lid. If you were to cover those holes or replace with a solid lid when the water started to boil it would erupt and spill over making a huge mess. But when using the lid with the holes, the steam is able to vent and the water staying at a manageable simmer.
We don’t have to listen with the intent to fix because sometimes fixing the issue isn’t always feasible or within our power. But listening with the intent to understand a little better, allows the person on the verge of boiling over the chance to vent and return to a level head. The silver lining in this two-way approach to conflict, is that you both walk away with a clearer mind and a better idea of who the other is and what they are about. A perfect foundation to build on if you chose to! Whereas the “no contact” approach leaves you both dying on that hamster wheel of anger with no signs of reprieve.
In an argument where you aren’t allowed to speak your truth, you usually hear all of the negative things someone may feel about you and then are left to ask no questions, make no apologies if you were wrong, and resolving nothing. Again I think about when my child comes to me crying and holding her arm, pulling at her clothes, kicking her feet and not vocalizing the root of the issue that has her upset, but she’s clearly upset. It takes me having to ask questions of what hurts, what’s bothering her and taking one guess at a time until finally coming to the conclusion that her stomach hurts or she’s tired. If I hadn’t asked the probing questions though and given her time to answer thoughtfully, I would have thought the issue was with her arm – the one visible response given to me. One sided arguments are quite similar. If we only listen to the visceral emotional response and there is no discussion to get to the heart of the issue then we are left scratching our heads, confused and angry and feeling mistreated. Again, no resolve.
I sometimes wish that I had been brought up in a much older time than this, the time where people rode to each other’s homes and had face to face discussions that ended in the shake of a hand or hug around the neck. The time when everyone wanted to grow in this life together, instead of in spite of each other. When we can learn to listen, air our grievances and then listen some more, we may actually get to the heart of our issues and picture this….Resolve them!