Listen up!

Have you ever talked to a friend or family member about one thing or another, important or not, waiting for some level of response or interest and the subject immediately changes back to them?

I’ll admit, I have been guilty of doing this, not only to adult loved ones, but to my children too. 
Pretty sure I hear this a couple times a week…

“Momma, did you just hear what I just said? Were you listening to me?”

GA!! Some days, my kids teach me just as much as I teach them. 
And of course, I have a long list of excuses. Usually, my lack of response is because I assume I’ll be hearing the same “joke” I’ve heard a billion times… or… intently scrambling to make dinner, trying to catch up on my blog, *guilty-face* intently playing Words With Friends… or, let’s face it, simply being so exhausted I zoned out. But I try to be honest with everyone, and that includes my children, so I’ll admit to the mistake, apologize, and attempt to get whoever I was ignoring to repeat what they wanted me to hear. Even though I feel like a big fat asshole. #MomFail
It’s frustrating when the shoe’s on the other foot and you’re trying to relay a thought &/or feeling to someone… and you realize they aren’t listening. It’s almost like a slap in the face when the information you’re sharing is profoundly affecting you, and your loved one(s) blow it off. It’s disrespectful, especially if they expect you to bend over backwards listening to their stories. 
What if the lack of respect goes deeper than a face-to-face zone-out? How do you deal with people that don’t return phone calls or emails… or worse, actually responds to an email, but instead of addressing what’s clearly in front of them, turns it into something else entirely??
Let me illustrate an example: Since I am not friends with my Mother on FB I email her pictures of my kids randomly, and I usually get validated for unfriending her every time she blurts out some sort of passive aggressive response. When I sent her a few pictures from our trip to Disney World, I received the following reply:

Some of thee pictures took a while to load.  May I make a suggestion.  Have the girls decide what pictures they like for a poster for their door.  Don’t the posters come in 16 x 21?   I thought Meijers had a special recently. “

No lie. That was IT. And that was the only feedback I received after our magical trip. So let’s overanalyze it! Let’s see… after you get past the typos — it’s an improvement from the all caps notes she used to send — what’s wrong with this response? First of all, she kicks it off with a casual insult. Yes, I sent about 14 [reduced file-sized] pictures… better than all 600! So a negative tone kicks it off, and then… is there any mention of the subjects in the pictures? Ya know, her grandchildren?! Of the fun we we had as a family? Did she even look at the pictures?! I realize she probably thinks she is helping… but is she?

The sad thing? This recent email doesn’t hold a candle to other responses I’ve received over the years, both via email, phone & in person. In high school, I received a 1st division rating at State Solo & Ensemble — which isn’t easy. My own choir didn’t get a 1st division rating, but as a soloist, I did. My mother didn’t go to see me sing the hell out of my Italian aria or witness the sight-reading challenges… It was on a Saturday and she had a house to clean. Oh the support… But it was probably better that she didn’t go. Because when I came home and showed her my metal, beaming with pride — she said “Well, you didn’t win first place though, right? This is just a rating, not first place or anything.” Seriously. I wanted to scream… DID YOU HEAR ME… ?!? And I promptly made plans to leave immediately to celebrate with friends who actually gave a shit.

I have learned some things from my mother… like how not to treat my kids.

Dealing with people like my mother will likely always be a work-in-progress… and I am working on it in therapy, believe me. 

Sometimes, listening goes deeper than actively listening or reading. There’s the support and positive feedback we all crave… or just some level of an acknowledgment that your loved one gives a shit! I am still learning how to deal with my mother… critical people like her seem take any grain of negativity and blow it up into something else entirely. See what I mean about the importance of listening?

Listening to the entire story, instead of picking apart one tiny thing?

I met with one of my best friends over the weekend… it was a very brief visit, but it’s amazing how spending even an hour with someone who gets you, who listens to you, who will tell you when you’re being ridiculous, or question your motive for spending time with selfish people who don’t care like they should… what a difference a friend like that can make in your life.

People like that make me want to be a better listener, whether it’s reciprocated or not.

Do you surround yourself with loved ones that listen?
Or do you feel obligated to spend time with certain people you feel may never listen… or change?

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