It’s Not About the Cookie – When We Haven’t Got a Clue
In our work, we frequently use a skill called Deep Listening. It’s a skill, when used well, can have incredibly transformative effects on our relationships. It’s the ability to hear and understand the underlying causes that motivate all the different modes of communication being used by a person in a specific situation.
Communication is almost always imperfect. Sure, when I’m at the grocery store and ask for one green apple there’s not much room for interpretation. But when it comes to matters of the heart it’s much harder to be exact. If I’m feeling guilty maybe I appear angry? Maybe I’m lonely so I appear sad to attract attention. But, if I’m feeling guilty I might also try to appear boisterous and happy to cover the feelings of guilt. Or if I’m lonely, I might work too much and appear stressed out. In each case the behavior I’m exhibiting does not correlate directly to what I’m trying to communicate.
The listener has to use Deep Listening to understand the subtext. This can only happen if the listener is fully present in the moment and using their intuition to understand. There is another dimension to Deep Listening that I wanted to discuss. I’ll lead with an example to try to explain.
When my daughter was seven years old I remember picking her up after a play date; she had gone to a friend’s house after school. When we were almost home, she suddenly burst into tears in the back of the car. I was obviously concerned so I asked her, “what’s the matter?” She told me that she had made a cookie for me in school and had forgotten it at her friend’s house. She was terribly upset and kept crying and crying.
At this point I had two options. I could either (A) deal with the symptom or (B) try to understand what my daughter was trying to communicate through Deep Listening.
If I did not use Deep Listening, I would have (A) dealt with the symptom and tried to sort out the recovery of the cookie, going out of my way to call her friend’s mom and asking her to send the cookie to school the next day and make sure I got it.
Instead, I chose to use (B) Deep Listening. So I said to my daughter, “Oh boy, I can hear you are really upset. You wanted me to have that cookie because you made that for me.”
“Yes, I made it for you and I wanted you to have it,” she said between tears.
Then I said, “I can see that, because I can see you are very upset.”
Then she said “yes” again. She was getting calmer by then and suddenly she stopped crying and said, “Can you make the music louder? I love that song.” And that was that. The end of that drama. I could not believe how fast we had gotten over that one.
This brings me to the other point I want to make about Deep Listening today. Sometimes Deep Listening is simply about acknowledgement and validation. We all want to feel like our emotions, desires, thoughts, wishes, hopes and dreams are valid and important. Even if we can’t fully express them for one reason or another (like with the cookie), we want to know that our feelings are respected and acknowledged. Like in the example with my daughter and the cookie, once we are sure that we have been fully understood and taken seriously, the actualization of a specific desire is often unnecessary.
This is especially true for children who look up to their parents for love and validation. If we validate our kids and let them know that what they are feeling is important, then we will be able to avoid a lot of heartache and tears, move quickly beyond isolated incidents and focus more on living life to the fullest.
This is another dimension of Deep Listening and I hope you find it useful! I also hope you’ll enjoy plenty of cookies during the holidays.
Gonan is the originator of the philosophies behind Gozamm, the home of the Parentology, Trust and Open Heart workshops. An industry thought-leader and a perennial innovator, Gonan is setting trends in the realms of families and business worldwide. Her eclectic background; being born in Turkey, married to a Swede, having lived in the Middle East for 25 years and now living in California, she truly brings a new dynamic perspective to an important field. -- view all articles