This weekend, I participated in a mentoring workshop for a birthing philosophy I've always found intriguing. I don't know what I was expecting to get out of it, not knowing for certain where I want to head in childbirth education. I'm still processing a lot of the teaching methods and facilitator information from the course, but what immediately grasped my attention was the idea of solution-based thinking and active listening instead of goal-oriented oriented thinking. It seems so obvious yet, as a parent, I come up on situations every day where my frustration can shut down dialogue with my partner or kids, leaving them feeling attacked or dismissed and me feeling unheard and unappreciated.
"Why did you make such a mess in the kitchen? You should have asked for help. You need to clean up your mess!"
"I appreciate you noticing we needed to mix more juice. You're becoming very good at helping yourself. How do you think we can clean up this spill?"
I used to be a very good listener, but since becoming a parent it's as though my mouth opened and my ears shut. Maybe I'm so afraid of not being heard, that I'm scared to stop talking? I acknowledge that I will never be a Stepford Wife, nor is that something to which I aspire and using this language all the time would make me mental. I firmly believe it is okay and healthy to be angry and upset, and for those emotions to be expressed.
What did click for me was the idea of Acknowledging, Validating, and then Identifying the primary issue or problem. Everyone wants to feel heard -- as a mother of three boys this *really* resonates with me! Everyone wants to feel that other people find their experience, feelings, or thoughts valid and real. The concept of slowing down the conversation so each of these needs can be met -- of being an active listener and employing the precept of "Right Speech", creating a safe environment for self-dialogue and self-discovery -- is something so simple yet, in so many ways, so profound for me that I'm still thinking about it.
This communication strategy comes fairly easily to me when I am working, but seems less natural when I'm relaxed, at home, and surrounded by my family -- in my comfort zone. It's something I'm committing to work on. It is important to me that my kids and my husband feel heard, too, and I want to be a good listener again.
This weekend may have been about childbirth, but what I have taken away from it is so much more.