“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” David Augsburger
I have wrestled with that truth by David Augsburger for a decade and landed firmly, believing and attempting to live by that listening mantra. I want to hear others and show them tangible love. I want to receive the same treatment from others. Yet, in family, at work, among friends, it’s the times we feel we are not heard that cause the most pain and lead to potential relational breakdown.
Here are 5 essentials to remember when you are being triggered by not being heard in order to avoid the relational rift.
1. You are probably right. If you are really wondering, chances are you are probably right; you aren’t fully being heard. When someone hears you with sincerity, you will know it, plain and simple. They will make sure you know it. So grab on to the reality and feel justified about the fact that you are probably right, you aren’t being fully heard.
2. There is a reason that has absolutely nothing to do with you. It could be that your boss has a stomachache or your spouse is overly tired. It could be that person just walked out of a grueling series of life battles or a something you said triggered an unresolved issue from another situation. It could just be that person never developed great interpersonal skills. Don’t jump to judgment about yourself, your idea, your relationship with that person in a way that will twist your ability to keep trying. There is an explanation beneath the surface that will help to release the tension you are feeling. Seek to understand the context you aren’t aware of.
3. There is a reason that has something to do with you. I know I’m contradicting my previous point, however, not being heard is always a both and. You too are bringing something to the table or you have not brought something to the table that is contributing to the lack of receptiveness towards you. Hard to hear, but always true. Ask the question, “how am I contributing to the missed communication and lack of receptivity? How am I acting or not acting, how have I been treating the other person, how have I been avoiding or giving up or pretending or withdrawing in a way that helps pave the path towards breakdown?” The best way to be heard, is to keep being and becoming a person others want to hear. Dig in deep and identify what’s in you and what you can own first.
4. Time and timing. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Wrong timing generates hollow hearing. Rethink when you’ve approached someone. Can you retry with a gentle request when there is less swirl? This seems basic, but, hit save to drafts instead of sending the email. Ask someone for 5 or 10 minutes when it works for them (and give them the reason why you want to talk – everyone detests the “please call me for an important conversation” with no reason given). Maybe what you are trying to get across now does require more work, more time, more credibility, before arriving at the right timing. Don’t force wrong timing.
5. Maybe you think you need to be heard more than you really do. Don’t tune my out yet. We all have a deep need to be heard, really, really heard. We deserve to be heard, what David Augsburger wrote is true. However, people will never fully meet that need. Even the best listeners, the most caring spouses, and the most interpersonally savvy boss or colleague, won’t fill the deeper issue behind the issue that is often present in our frustration. To approach people in a healthy way that creates connection, we need to first be heard and know that our loving God hears us.
Psalm 18:6 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Psalm 66:19 but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Psalm 116:1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
Start by filling your tank with moments of being heard, deeply heard by God. You will approach someone who isn’t hearing you with less desperation, reduced anger, a softened heart, and a centered spirit. When we realize God already hears us, our need from others isn’t quite as strong as we thought it was. Go to God and let Him hear you will always be the healthiest first step in repairing broken communication with others.