I Don't Get You and I Don't Want To

not-listening
not-listening

You know how sometimes you just don't get someone? You just can't quite understand why they think or feel the way they do? What the hell are they talking about? How can they see the world that way? Picture it. The republican ad you saw on youtube, the latest action from a corporate executive, that distant relative that's part of a fundamentalist church.

And then there's your intimate partner. You know those moments where they're trying to tell you how they feel, what they want, or how they think, and you huff internally or out loud, "I just don't get that."? Most of the time, when I work with couples and hear, "I just don't get you" I hear defensiveness, frustration, or anger, and I see body language that indicates moving away from their partner. The unsaid message sounds something like, "I don't get you and I don't want to and you're wrong." They're not truly listening.

Ouch.

What's interesting to me is that I generally don't see curiosity, moving toward, or an attempt to get it. It's as if us not getting them is a chance for us to make them wrong, push them away, and wish they'd just stop being crazy.

No wonder we don't get them.

Truth is, the places where we don't "get" our partners isn't actually where they're being crazy or outlandish, but where we're unable to truly hear them. It points to where we stop listening, check out, know what they're going to say next, discount their ideas, compete with them, or mount an argument against them.

What if there were another way? What if we could listen, truly listen with neutrality? Listening not for what we agree or disagree with, but listening as a way to truly understand what it's like to be them? Listening as if we deeply care about getting their world?

Try it.

And as a bonus: If this is hard for you, check that out. What's hard about bringing this kind of curiosity and listening to another?