solutions and listening, or the lack thereof

Posted: February 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Saving the world – or believing I am saving the world – can be a rush.  It has often been part and parcel of my motivation, and that’s a whole strange soup of nobility and manipulation, selfishness and selflessness, service and a dysfunctional distraction from my own issues.  Somehow, amidst it all, God works.  I love it that He doesn’t require perfect process or even untainted motivations before He will work.  He’s more generous than most of us are, in that way. 

One of the traps of trying to save the world, I have noticed, is the intense desire to offer solutions.  I’ve noticed that in a lot of settings, it is really hard to just talk through ordinary everyday life, because so many listeners are in full problem-solving mode, lobbing unrequested advice and thinking up undesired solutions.  It sometimes steals my desire to talk, because I’m just sharing, and the listener keeps not-quite-understanding what I’m saying.  This is because it’s hard to *really* listen when your objective is to have a solution to offer by the time I finish my sentence.  So they offer the solution, and often it addresses a problem I don’t have, and then I have to decide if I want to clarify (and perhaps seem – very accurately – like I’m just damned stubborn about taking advice) or if I want to just play along and agree, hoping we can move to a new subject and stop with the problem solving already. 

Having said that, I must confess that I lean too hard the other way.  More than one of my loved ones have asked, entreated, almost begged me to supply them answers when they were talking. This happens partly because I won’t give advice if I’m not confident of what I have to say, nor if I’m not sure you actually want it.  But it is also partly because I am focusing so hard on really hearing, while someone is talking, that I am actually NOT doing the “multi-task” of simultaneously thinking up answers.  I am just listening, watching, turning it over, and trying to be sure I really know what is being shared.  My theory is I can ponder and pray over it once I’ve really understood.  First, I want to understand.  Because I process slowly, this means I frustrate the crap out of people sometimes with my answerlessness.

At JPUSA I learned about “listening groups,” which is this super-cool small-group way of learning how to really listen (and pray) without jumping to advise, as well as how to really share without looking for instant answers.  I carefully collected the information on how to do them, right before I moved out, in hopes that I could start a listening group here (I did that by participating in a listening group.)  Thus far, that hasn’t happened.  I have only made a few attempts to share what the process is, and no one has seemed interested in trying it.  Thus is the life of being a fairly strange lady – things that get me super-excited tend to just kind of stir a slightly quizzical look on others’ faces. 

I have no great summary or even any point tonight.  Just thinking my way through. 

  1. Gary says:

    Although we have completely different personalities, I totally get this. If you ever do get a listening group started, please include me in. I am very interested. I am in relationship with a group of people that simply need to be heard. This seems like a skill (or art form) I’d like to learn.

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