Friday, January 1, 2016


I recently learned something.

People don't know how to listen correctly. 

I recently went through a complicated relationship where there were some major green flags which told me to proceed. There were some red flags as well, and I tried to exercise caution. As this was a new and very different type of relationship for me, and the red flags were a bit confusing and frustrating, I expressed my concerns to some friends. 

And they listened. 

Then they told me what they thought. 

Then they told me what they thought I should do.

Then they told me what they thought of him. 

Then they told me why they thought he was wrong for me.

Yet, when I tried to explain that I wanted to stay in this relationship for the tremendous personal growth I was experiencing and that-despite the challenges-I was learning so much more about myself and about what I wanted and needed in a relationship because of it, none of that seemed to matter. They stayed focused on the negative. They stayed focused on what they thought was right for me instead of listening to what I felt was right for me. Instead of allowing me learn more about myself, they became the experts on my life.

It seems they listened to reply. They didn't listen to understand.

They replied to address my concerns, not to understand my point of view.

They didn't listen to understand what was important to me, which was my growth. And the more I tried to point out the positive signs I saw, the more they brought up the negative they saw, thus negating and discounting what mattered to me; my feelings, my growth and my happiness.

By extension, I was beginning to feel they were negating me.

They didn't seem to realize that he and I are different people and a different type of couple than they and their significant other are. They seemed to believe that what was right, or what worked for them, absolutely had to be right or work for the two of us.

Life experiences bring us change, and with change comes pain and with pain comes growth and vice versa.

I will take the responsibility of not stating ahead of time that all I wanted at that time was a sympathetic ear and a silent mouth. Just listen, say nothing. My bad.

I can accept my friends were trying to look out for me. I get that. I really do. They are good people with good hearts. But, it was on their terms, not mine; from their past experiences, not mine; their past battles, not mine. And again I take responsibility for not being clear to what I wanted from them.

While not all of my friends were so vocal in expressing their concerns, I think the number of my friends who did speak their mind, so overwhelmed me that it began to undermine my self-confidence in my relationship skills. Plus, the longer the relationship went on, the more determined they became that I should heed their advice.

Unfortunately, as human beings, we have been conditioned to listen to reply. We have not been taught to listen to understand what someone else needs or wants from us. And as a teacher I do it all the time. I pose a question and expect an answer. Simple recall. I try to ask some questions of my students to understand their thinking so I may address misconceptions in their understanding of the subject matter. When there is a conflict between students, I try to get one to restate what the other's concern or feelings are in order to see the consequences of their actions. In short, I'm trying to teach empathy, which is sorely lacking in today's society.

One thing I learned in this relationship is that I need to set boundaries and ask for what I need/want from my boyfriend. Maybe this incident also serves as a lesson for me to do the same with my friends. 

I'll start asking for them to listen, not with their ears, but with their heart.


  1. Very good point! After reading this I plan to listen more thoroughly when someone is talking to me. A lot of times I find my self waiting for them to finish so I can immediately reply.

    1. Justin, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. It is greatly appreciated. I'm also very pleased this resonated with you. I think if we all took time to listen with our hearts instead of our ears, we might all get along better. While we often think we're helping by replying, we might not be, as what I experienced. Thanks again, Jeff