John G Bell
Winter '03 - Hill
Reflections: My five most important goals in Compassionately Listening for winter quarter
I feel like I have the emotional maturity of a 2 year old after reading this book. The amount of work and intentionality necessary to do this seems overwhelming to me. I feel scared that I have so far to go before I can be the kind of person I wish I was, but that's a trap. I need to be compassionate with myself about being on the journey instead of being focused on the imaginary conclusion. However, I don't want to rely on being repentant for my failures to meet my personal expectations as a salve for not making progress.
I've annoyed friends for years by pointing out that they don't have to do anything, when they say that have to do something, but rather they can do whatever they want. The annoying part is when I say sarcastically that when they do what they want instead, there may be consequences. I tend to use this kind of language with myself all the time. I think about the things that I have to do, and I struggle against them without thinking about why I'm doing them. I've never been very good at doing things that I didn't want to do, struggling against such things constantly. In conjunction with other life-alienating language, I have been avoiding responsibility for choosing to focus completely on this class and avoiding other tasks, like my job, which make going to school possible. I'm going to very seriously try to better balance myself between my school and my outside responsibilities. This relates to compassionate listening because it's a case where I've been using language that implies lack of choice and also have been denying responsibility for my choices, and have not been compassionate with myself.
There's a great deal of intentional technique suggested in this book. One of the things that is mentioned is to make a commitment to repeat what other people have said before speaking. I find this very threatening because I tend not to listen to other people very carefully. Last quarter I had several people comment on this directly or indirectly. In fact, I had someone close to me, outside of the class completely, make a comment that exactly mirrored Robin's suggestion in my evaluation about trying more to understand before building on what the person's said. I tend to take off and talk about what I want to talk about instead of spending time to really validate that the person I'm talking to has said, especially if I don't want to take the time to hear them. One of the things I'm going to work on this quarter is to really listen to the other people in the class and in my life, to really try to hear what they are saying before moving on to what I wanted to talk about.
One of the things that I'm going to be more intentional about is watching the way I speak and communicate. Several things came out of my peer evaluations about appearing arrogant or only engaging more on intellectual issues and not so much on my personal feelings. So, I'm going to work on being more intentional about focusing on what's going on for me personally and communicating this more. This relates to the comments in the book about how we talk to others or at them without knowing how to engage in dialogue with them. So, I'm going to be more intentionally focused on the differences between when I think and what I feel and communicating this within the conversations this quarter.
There's a quote in the book that “the objective of NVC is not to change people and their behaviour in order to get our way; it is to establish relationships based on honesty and empathy that will eventually fulfill everyone's needs.” I'm going to work harder this quarter on being open to relationships with people. I tend to be very compartmentalized in my life, keeping the things I do at different time alienated from the other things in my life, keeping them and myself at comfortable distances. This is about wanting to feel less vulnerable, and it makes it easier to feel like I'm in control of everything because I control the flow of information about myself and by compartmentalizing I can avoid revealing information about how I feel to others and to myself. I've spent a great deal of my life making people comfortable to say anything around me, but have spent very little time making myself comfortable around other people, or in relationship with them. In a way this is a kind of manipulation that helps me get what I want from people and situations, because I try to control the flow of information, to stay in control. I'm going to work to intentionally change this for myself and communicate across boundaries where I would normally compartmentalize in my life.