4 Listening Styles to Consider When Telling It Like It Is

During September full moon in Pisces, I so happened to be with some yoga mates on a retreat in the woods. The energy was great and having nothing but clean well water alongside delicious homegrown vegetarian meals placed me in a very pleasant and clear state of mind – the clearest I had experienced in quite some time. On the final evening of the trip, a few of us stayed outside late around a fire pit to share in each others’ company a while longer when I noticed one person having a hard time fully relaxing into the moment which was apparent for most of the trip. In my efforts to extend a hand and grant this person space to bask in the coolness of the moment, I did this thing I tend to do and started intuitively reading into the individual. There was resistance but the point was eventually grasped as I made my positive intentions clear. Next thing I know, others were asking me to read them, too. I felt overwhelmed by what I was getting myself into but something in me was up for the challenge and I couldn’t stop myself.

The next person I began to read, although requested it, was even more resistant. Thankfully, there was another intuitive woman in the group who contributed to the conversation in a very significant way. I felt like I had some much needed help. The back and forth, although productive, was draining and got into some pretty personal topics. Perhaps, however, it was the vibes from the moon or something else that lead to the shift in my confidence but I remained persistent in getting the message across. Just before the night officially ended, it felt like I had done a good deed …until the next day. I woke up with “the morning after” feeling of awkwardness. Thinking I might have said too much to these people and about their own lives no less, I tried to go about the day as normal as I could pretend to be. However, I could not ignore that one of the persons I had read the previous evening was not their usual vibrant self. I could feel a nerve was struck and I started to feel regret. Should I have done better at shutting myself up? Could I have said some things differently?

In the world of yoga, there are two very thought provoking concepts that are approached differently even depending on what type of yoga one practices: satya and ahimsa. Standing alone, they are easy enough to digest. Tell the truth and do no harm. Simple enough right? Here’s the plot twist: what happens when the truth causes harm?

As an Aries born of a Capricorn woman and married to a Leo man, one can imagine that there are no shortages of hard-truth daggers being thrown at any given moment in my world. It gets rough at times. I’m mostly used to it and find at least some appreciation for it even when it stings. However, as a mindfulness practitioner, I must remember that what works for me does not apply to all and what applies in one moment may not apply in the next. As I grow, I never want to hurt people but to promote awareness and make room for positive change. For this reason, I’ve made a great deal of effort in softening my honest nature with compassion. A big part of this work is learning to recognize the listener for which I have found there are four types: the Hit Me’s, the Be Gentles, the Meet Me in the Middles and the Let’s Argues.

The “Hit Me” Type

The first type is the one that let’s you tell like it is, raw and uncut. They expect the worst so they are not so caught off guard and are adverse to “sugar-coating” as it feels like a downplay to what they can handle emotionally. Even if they get defensive along the way and visible change is slow, they eventually digest the message and appreciate the forwardness.

The “Be Gentle” Type

The second type is all about the feels. Sensibilities lean more towards the delicate side and language and tone are especially important. As you read into them, they are likely reading into every word spoken. When triggered, reactions are extreme. They may be the ones who exhibit self-deprecating behavior when hit too hard with a message or may shut down completely. It is best to discuss more personal matters in a private setting with this type. Avoid sarcasm.

The “Meet Me in the Middle” Type

The third type is a blend of the first two. In my experience, they tend to be the most receptive because they don’t dwell in either extreme. Even if they disagree with the message, they are more likely to hear one out respectfully to at least gather further insight into an outside experience of themselves. They appreciate forwardness but do not take well to unnecessarily abrasive language or tones. They may not require a completely private setting but being surrounded by people they trust is important. Limited sarcasm advised.

The “Let’s Argue” Type

The last type describes the ones who debate for sport. Regardless of your helpful intention or their willful solicitation, they will argue you down. They want to challenge you to support your claim well. It’s wise to be prepared for deflection with this type. They have strong minds and will go to some length to justify their viewpoint. Even those on the opposing side of logic will attempt to find a way to be right or at least confuse you which they may still take as a win. If they choose to be receptive, they will eventually hear you out. You may need to employ some skillful psychological strategy with these guys.

Something else to remember about these types – and this is very important, okay? Most of us are any one or a combination of these types at some point or another. Life is a roller coaster. Sometimes we’re receptive, understanding and willing. Other times we’re sensitive, argumentative and closed-off. There are topics that make us feel more triggered than others and depending on current life events, we could be more short-fused. I’m thankful that all the people I read that night seemed to later appreciate the messages delivered. I think we even became a bit closer because of it. Still, it was a risk I had to take with a certain level of delicacy and consciousness.

It’s also important to note that in spite of the truth we are so certain of from our own experience, there is a possibility that it is not the entire truth. Even after objective observation with the best of intentions we are inevitably biased, judgmental and sometimes hasty. Our brains work this way to make processing easier but we must keep human error in mind and not forget that silence can be a good choice as well. This is where ego can get out of the way to make room for ahimsa if your intention values non-harming over truth. This is for each of us to decide.

Namaste.

Hard Truth with a Lime

My husband and I are “hashers”, my term for people who speak the truth about issues as they recognize them. Being upfront about what we see as reality generally serves us in that there is not a lot of tip-toeing around problems. Instead, we lay it all out on the table as soon as possible so we can resolve it as soon as possible. The conundrum with serving the truth straight up is that it is often taken as offense to emotional lightweights …and sometimes it’s our turn to be the lightweights.

One evening after a long day of work preceded by a long few weeks of balancing all the responsibilities of adult-ing with my goals and dreams, I went on an unexpected rant about lacking the energy or time for all the things I want to do in a day. My husband, with the best of intentions, made a remark that not only hurt my feelings but, for a moment, killed all my dreams and triggered a bunch of old wounds that suddenly bubbled to the surface in a rush. At first, I was furious, then I was sad. After a few hours, I recalled his exact words and realized he wasn’t entirely wrong. We later hashed it out in a conversation in which I got to express my displeasure with his word choice and appreciation of his honesty. He got to apologize and learned a lesson in the consequences of what and how one says things.

At some point in the day, or during our week, or in life we are not ready for hard truths without a chaser. There are moments I need it on the rocks (tough love) or prefer it in a hard cocktail with a lime – not quite sugar-coated but still easier to swallow. However, when we are too busy “keeping it 100”, we may miss the important cues of the receiver not being at the mental or emotional level required to toss back what your serving, regardless of how honest it is. This is where communication often breaks down.

There are some pretty common examples of how, in reference to the Chappelle Show, “keeping it real goes wrong.” Maybe we make a joke about someone else’s poor decision-making which can cause embarrassment and lead to anger and mistrust. Perhaps, we give unsolicited advice when the receiver is only looking for a supportive ear. Maybe the truth would have been more easily accepted had our word choice been less harsh. Of course, there are plenty of circumstances in which it’s up to the receiver to be mature and ready enough to handle the message in spite of the delivery. Also, the intention of the hasher is another important factor which will hopefully be an intuitive guide whilst unveiling the listeners’ proverbial eyes.

Compassion is key whenever we are interacting with almost everyone. Sometimes situations call for toughness in the name of genuine concern but other times it calls for a milder touch. When we are truly aware, we are more likely to tell the difference, be wise in our approach and maybe someone will grant us the same consideration when we are on the other end.

So tell me …when was a time you went a bit too far with dishing out the truth? Or, when was the last time you were on the receiving end of an inconsiderate truth-teller? Please share!

Namaste.

Lost In Translation, Found in Acceptance

My fiancé and I  speak different languages. Yes, we are both American-born and speak proper English (sometimes) but we do not always understand each other. For one, there that whole “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” thing. Also, it doesn’t help that he’s a Leo and I’m an Aries (I’m sure my fellow astrologers understand). This drove me up the [bleepin’] wall, especially at the beginning of our relationship. In fact, communication was so much of an issue that we faced parting ways several times because we felt like the other person just didn’t get it.

Thankfully, our relationship survived and it is better than it has ever been. Don’t get me wrong, we still disagree. Even now, we often debate on how to go about things and on important topics like whether or not Voldemort is no more a villain than Dumbledore is (crucial, right?). However, we have found happiness in our disagreements.

Much of our earlier frustrations stemmed from the need to control. Like many couples, we entered our relationship with baggage and was looking for the other person to fill in the gaps. This didn’t leave a lot of room for us to be ourselves with one another. I was always correcting him and he was always scoffing at me. We ended up spending too much time and energy trying to convince.

A turning point happened for us at our rock bottom when we actually learned something from being fed up with each other. It was exactly what we should have been doing in the first damn place: let the other person be. I finally got to a point where I don’t get angry every time he says something illogical. Instead of arguing, I nonchalantly tell him “You know that makes no sense, right?” and he usually replies with “Yea, I know, I just wanted to say something crazy” and we both giggle it off. I choose to see the humor in his nonsense. I’m mean what else can you do when you love a Leo man? (lol)

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He, on the other hand, started to take me more seriously. I was all for jokes but my Love has an annoying habit of ruining serious moments with inappropriate insertions of humor because they make him uncomfortable. He also loves to take the reins of leadership which is great if I’m not already in the midst of leading. In time, he learned how to let me run things my in my own fashion and how to let serious moments be just that.

In short, he started to listen more and I lightened up. Essentially, we are the same couple and we still speak different languages on most days but our acceptance of one another allows us to find common ground and understanding. Now, there is no one else I’d rather talk to.