Walking on Fresh Grass
“I just need you to listen!”
I was exasperated.
We were driving through the countryside - to the Sunshine Coast - and this was the first chance we have had to talk - really talk - for many weeks.
Moving house has taken its toll. We are exhausted and drained physically and mentally. We have both have been given extra responsibility at work on top of the move, and our lads weren't around to help.
The worst part part for me? No time for our walk-talks. I sort through emotions, confusions, hurts, grief, pain and challenges by talking them out with Christian while walking in nature. These walks stabilise and heal. But we were too busy. I felt I had to carry everyone else through at home and at work. My bottled up emotions were running over and stealing my sleep. I was desperate for a walk-talk. A drive through jagged mountains and blue/grey bushland seemed the best substitute.
Once we left the city behind and miles of trees stretched before us, I opened up with pent up thoughts and feelings. We talked. Christian too has been under pressure, so the talking didn’t go well. Every time I shared an issue, confusion or hurt, he came up with a solution. (That's not what I needed.)
“And Alisha keeps interrupting me while I’m working. She knows I have a deadline.”
“Well remind her that you have a deadline”
“She already knows, but it’s not that simple. She’s going through a lot at home and I’m usually her sounding board. I don't want to fob her off.”
“Well be a broken record. She needs to get the message that you can’t be there all the time.”
This was unlike Christian. I just needed him to listen. His resources were depleted. Like me, he wasn’t sleeping so he fell into his old habit of problem solving.
"But it's not that simple!!!” I politely yelled.
Listening is not problem solving.
Often, in relationship listening, people are at cross-purposes. The talker wants to be listened to but the listener thinks the talker wants a problem solved. Problem-solving may follow a listening session, but the two are very different.
The cross-purposes can be rectified by the talker saying I need you to just listen, not problem-solve or by the listener asking do you want me to help solve a problem or just listen?
Listening is helpful even if problems remain unsolved. It builds trust and connection. This may be the only tangible outcome in relationship listening, but that’s what you want, right? In relationship listening one person shares thoughts and feelings just to be understood and accepted. It’s tough to change from being a problem solver to being a listener, but the end gains are enormous.
After my outburst Christian was quiet for a while then said,
“So, you really care about Alisha, but you need to get work done, so you feel stuck. ... That’s hard.”
He had finally put his listening ears on. I felt an immediate release of tension. There were deeper things I needed to share; so now I could.
“Yes. ... It’s all really hard” I replied.
A few tears rolled down my cheeks as a tight knot inside began to unravel.
Christian just listened.
Listened to the exhaustion in my voice.
Listened to the hurt underneath my words.
Listened to my cry for just a little understanding.
Listening is a language of love.
Christian's new book "listen (how to)" has just been released! You can order it on our "books" page.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains a little story of our journey and an insight drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience as a psychiatrist. The central ideas are in bold. We post every fortnight and would love to hear your comments. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.