Befriending that Voice

Truth Byte #53

 

“Even in partnership, you must learn to walk alone.”

 

I have an incredible husband. Despite my drama stories to the contrary, he is the most patient, steady, loveable, and supportive guy I know. He rides with me on the roller-coaster of parenthood, the stormy ship of entrepreneurship, and the oft hum drum boredom of long-term commitment. He is in it for the long haul, says the right thing at the right time and always knows how to make me laugh (or at least roll my eyes while smiling).

 

But even in the midst of a truly rich marriage, I have learned that I am alone.

 

And not in a bad way, just alone.

 

Let me explain.

 

It hit me during the first few months of our marriage.  We had been building up to our big day for months, and had waited until after the wedding to move in together. Our honeymoon was perfect, two weeks of uninterrupted time in a tropical paradise.

 

And then we came home.

 

And we had jobs, and groceries, and car payments, and in-laws, and laundry, and all the other little things that “real life” is composed of.

 

At first, I happily played along in my new role as “wife”. But after a while, I noticed that we had separate lives. We work in completely different fields, so there isn’t really any “shop talk” that happens at home.  The poor guy had to explain his early tech projects to me in fashion metaphors, it was the only way I was going to follow along!  We had different work schedules, so the time that we spent at our home just playing was minimal.  But it worked for a while.

 

Then the babies came, one then another. And that changed everything.  Suddenly, we were tag-teaming as we negotiated who would do what for which kid and how we could be impactful and available parents while still trying to build our careers and run a household. And there were moments when I was nursing a baby or driving a little one to preschool or trying to make friends at some mommy-social that I felt so alone. And not in a good way.

 

Somewhere along my journey of university, career, marriage, and kids, I had to face the fact that I am alone. All alone.  Late at night, when I wake up with a start, it’s just me. Sure, I could reach over and shake him awake, or cuddle up with a kid or two, but what happens in my inner landscape is something only I can experience.

 

So why am I telling you this? What’s the point?

 

I have had many clients over the years that are running from loneliness.  Whether it’s a spouse they yearn for, a child, a pet, or some other kind of companionship or love, so many of us are looking to fill the emptiness inside. And what I have learned, both personally and professionally, is that no matter what the quality of our relationships, if we can’t be comfortable alone, those relationships will never be enough.

 

Let me say that again: if you aren’t okay being alone, no one else’s love will ever be enough.

 

Now I am speaking as an extrovert, and I know there are introverts out there who are probably thinking: "I am TOTALLY fine by myself!" And that may be true for some.

 

But for all of us, no matter what our social leanings, there is that corrosive voice inside that we don’t want to be left alone with.  You know, that voice that tells you that you are a failure, that you are screwing up, that you are a fraud and a fake, and that all your plans will ultimately fail.

 

That voice.

 

When you can learn to be in the presence of that voice and just not believe it, then you have really arrived.

 

Then you have a hope in hell of letting someone love you all the way, and being able to love them back without walls.

 

So this week, I challenge you to face that voice. To look deep inside into the part of you that was planted a long, long time ago, and really hear it. Hear the pain, the hopelessness, and the judgment. And just let it be.  Don’t “technique” it away with all the self-help tools you have collected (journaling, meditation, positive self-talk, etc. etc.), just be with it.

 

See what happens. 

 

See if you can sit in that uncomfortable place of self-attack and find another way, find another truth. Because until you do, you will be looking for someone else to drown out that voice. And no one else really can.

 

Ultimately, the only relationship that matters is the one you have with yourself.

 

And isn’t it time to listen to the most important person in your life: you? Even if you don’t like what s/he has to say?  Of course, there are ways to be supported in this task, and many people seek out counselling to have a reliable and consistent framework as they move through befriending that voice, so if you need that support, get it.

 

And in the meantime, keep looking inward. It’s where all the answers lie.  More at www.talktosaira.com

If It’s Not Fun…

Truth Byte #50

 “If it’s not inspired, it’s just busy work.”

 

I used to be a really busy person.  I rushed around from one thing to another, always feeling like I was squeezing in life between events. Even when I was with people I Ioved being around, my mind would flit on to the the next to do in my agenda.

 

Not inspiring.  Not inspired.

 

It wasn’t always this way.

 

Years ago, during my Master’s degree in California, I met a group of incredible minds.  We laughed, learned, and lived together, coming with all kinds of back stories to a space we would share for four years.

 

I remember dinner parties with these friends. 

 

They would start in the early evening, and go on and on into the wee hours of the morning.  We talked for hours about the newest television drama or the meaning of life, and everything in between. When I was with them, I was inspired.  We made art together, wrote poetry, checked each other’s grammar for essays, and personally researched the human spirit in ourselves and each other.  We participated in each other’s religious and cultural ceremonies, shared meals and gifts on Holy Days, met each other’s families, and found a home in each other. Those were days of little sleep and much reading, few boundaries and dozens of breakthroughs.

 

Those were the most inspired years of my life.

 

Fast forward twelve years.

 

I am a mother of two young children and I am an entrepreneur.  I volunteer at least ten hours a week on professional boards, and babysit other people’s children regularly. I run a private practice as a psychotherapist and also run a household. I am the one who drops and picks the little ones from all their activities, including school, and I have a thriving and full social life with my incredible husband and our friends.  Plus, I go to the gym five times a week and squeeze in a manicure and massage once a month.

 

I have a lot to do.

 

Gone are the days of endless dawdling and conversation.  These days, I am one busy woman!

 

But until recently, that busy-ness was just busy-ness, not inspired action.

 

Today, I filmed an episode of my YouTube show, Today is Your Day, and we discussed the benefit of inspired action. If action is not inspired, it simply one more “have to”.  And I hate “have tos”.  Always have.  Sucked it up and pushed through most of my life, but these days, if something is a have to, I am out.

 

And so these days, I am remembering what I learned from my friends in California: if it isn’t fun, why are we doing it? Anything from school picks ups, to client re-scheduling, to photocopying the class list, to folding laundry can be fun…if done in the right frame of mind.

 

So my challenge to you today would be to take stock of all the have tos on your own to do list.  What could you just do later? And what could you never actually do well, unless it is inspired? Your answers may surprise you.

 

Want more? Join us on YouTube for Today is your Day, or visit us on a Thursday night at The Get Happy Club! Email connect@talktosaira.com for details.

When They Don’t Want Your Help

Truth Byte #46

 

“Not everything is your business.”

 

I am a helper.  Always have been and probably always will be.  So when I hear a cry for help, even a silent cry for help, I spring to action.  I want to heal your pain, solve your problem, and make you smile again.

 

But this winter I have learned that not everything is my business.

 

I come from a very close-knit faith community.  Whenever I go to one of our gatherings, even if I am in a totally different country than where I usually live, somebody in the group will know someone from my family.  We are a community of adventurers, explorers, and pioneers, that left the pain of our poverty behind as we forged new vistas.  We are an immigrant community with international roots, and even though my great grandchildren will likely know little of the cultural ancestry that I have subconsciously marinated in, the rhythms and flavours of “back home” run deep and strong in the caring way we interact, our collective, hidden anxieties, and how we dance and laugh with reckless abandon on the big days of celebration.

 

We have come a long way, both literally and psychologically, and we have a lot to be proud of.

 

But as an intimate, caring community, we are also painfully aware of those who are struggling.  When tragedy strikes in one family, the ripples run quickly through our networks and reach the farthest corners of this planet, all the way to the lands where we came from. Long before the click of a button, our collective information travelled quickly, often with well-meaning embellishment and loving prayer along the way.

 

So when something bad happens to someone in my community, I feel it.

 

And I want to help.

 

But there are millions of us spread all across this blue/green globe. And I can’t save everyone.

 

This winter, I have learned that not everything is my business.  I have sat with people in pain, and allowed myself to be uncomfortable with my impotence.  I have watched the inevitable unfold and been powerless to change it.  I have realized that you can only help someone who is willing to grab on to your hand as they are falling.

 

I now unnderstand that sometimes people unconsciously prefer pain over change.

 

I know this not only as an observer, but as someone who used to live there.  There was a time in my past where I thought I knew everything about myself.  I thought I knew every nook and cranny of my inner landscape, and I had unearthed even the darkest of demons.  I was emerging from an intense few years of personal transformation, and I felt shiny and perfect.

 

And suddenly, the people around me, the people I considered my community, started exploding.

 

Marriages fell apart. Careers were in shambles. Children got seriously ill and injured. Addictions took hold. Friendships deteriorated. Hearts broke. Life just generally sucked for multiple people in my life simultaneously.

 

And I couldn’t save them.

 

I couldn’t fix it.

 

I had all this incredible knowledge and training and experience, and yet I couldn’t help the people who mattered the most to me.

 

Because they hadn’t asked for help.

 

And when they finally did, I wasn’t the one who could get through to them.

 

So years ago, I had to step back.  I had to look around at all those I loved, and I had to make a choice.  Would I spend the next decade furiously trying to fix it, or was there another option?

 

Perhaps I could gently turn back around to the people in my world who were thriving. Could I focus on building something that would last, rather than constantly trying to salvage bits of hope out of rubble of the personal tragedies around me?

 

Even though I kill plants on a regular basis, I know about the fundamental law of gardening: what you focus on will grow.  I was ready to focus on what was already growing, rather than trying to fix what needed repair.

 

And as I shifted my attention, the seeds of hope took root in my heart once again, and my life began to unfold organically. The people who could benefit from my particular flavour of care started knocking on my open door, and the results were incredible.  I was making a real and lasting impact on lives. And those who I couldn’t help also, somehow, began to find their way.  By letting go of the “how”, I stepped aside and the Master Teacher in each person light their own path.

 

Today, my community thrives. The leaders have woken up to the depth and complexity of the issues, and have found solutions that address root causes rather than handing out the sparkly band-aids of the past. I have found my place as the quiet listener who sends prayers and heart and referral letters. And when I hear those calls for help, even the silent ones, I trust that I am not the only one listening.

 

I challenge you this week to take a step back.  What are you assuming about the people in your life who you think need help? Are you giving them enough credit? Can you see their path, even if it’s difficult, as a spiritual unfolding rather than simply a tragedy? Can you focus on their resourcefulness, their resilience, their capacity for recovery? Can you, from a place of true care and compassion, put them in the hands of their Creator, and take a break from playing God?

 

That simple shift will probably make the holidays a lot more enjoyable for all!

 

Questions? Comments? Email me at connect@talktosaira.com

Two Decades to Build a Tribe

Truth Byte #43

“Life is a team effort.”

 

For many, many years, I bought into this lie that I was supposed to be able to do everything.

 

All by myself. 

 

As soon as I launched from my mother’s home into the big, complex world of adulthood, I assumed that I was on my own, and somehow, I was supposed to “make it”. Sure, I had friends and professors and bosses, but the responsibility for my life was now in my own hands, and I had to damn-well make it work.

 

And for a while I did!

 

Well, kinda.

 

I hustled through nine years of academia after leaving the shelter (and occasional mayhem) of my tight-knit family of origin, living on a shoestring student budget and the generosity of my mom’s and aunties’ unexpected and unasked for (but oh-so-needed!) long-distance cash deposits and care packages. Every so often, I would swallow my pride and even reach out to my long-lost dad for a little bit extra to keep the heat on and the gas tank half full and maybe a plane ticket home for Christmas.

 

But I was making it, right?

 

Kinda.

 

In between the late-night babysitting and bleary eyed tutoring jobs, I was getting that degree so I could be that grown up that everyone wanted me to be.

 

But when I met my would-be husband, everything about my solo life changed.

 

For the first time in my life, I felt like I could breathe. I was living back in my mom’s basement, completing my Ph.D. because it was unaffordable for me to continue another year in California while I completed my research and writing phase.

 

My old bed and old room were long gone, and I remember how proudly my sweet mother displayed the faded Mickey Mouse bedding in the new space she had carved out for me in her home. When my face fell, so did hers, and we realized simultaneously that I wasn’t a kid anymore, and yet I still couldn’t afford to really be on my own while I finished up.

 

Huddled in that basement at the unfamiliar desk, I sat, night after night, transcribing interviews, tearing up drafts, and chatting on MSN with the young, patient Chicago Cubs fan who I would one day marry.

 

And today, I can boldly say, I could not have finished my Ph.D. dissertation without his flirtatious encouragement and my mom’s persistent and relentless monitoring of my progress. (Some would call that nagging, but not me, right?).

 

So why am I telling you this story?

 

I want to remind you that you don’t have to do this alone.

 

Once I married him, I was sold. I realized I didn’t have to do this alone. I now had a buddy, a confidante, and a partner in crime who would do half of all the stuff I used to have to do all by myself.

 

And ten years later, I have realized that one person is not enough. It’s just too much pressure!

 

It was only after getting married, having two kids, owning a car, building a career, and buying a house (in my mind, the pinnacle of my personal capacity for “adulting”), that I was ready to take the risk and begin building a tribe of like-minded others. I had friends from my past, we all do, but they all live far away and none of them really know each other anymore. So I decided I needed a local crew, people whose eyes I could look into without a screen between us. I started small with invitations to coffee/tea/smoothie/some-other-drink to larger events like home-grown dinner parties for people I thought I might one day want to let it all hang out with.

 

Fast forward one year.

 

This weekend, I went out for dinner after an incredible workshop that I co-facilitated with three other therapists. Three.

 

For those of you that know me, you know how hard it is for me to share a stage.

 

Three other therapists. And I didn’t hog the mic.

 

During the course of the workshop, I realized how we gelled, how we built each other up, and how we were harmoniously helping the women in the room to come to their own aha’s. And as I looked at them, I didn’t see colleagues or my competitors.

 

I saw my girlfriends. 

 

These were women I had cried with and to, women who had poured out little pieces of themselves into me, women who faced the same challenges that I had, and probably do the same little happy dance in their messy kitchens or pristine offices when shit goes right.

 

At the dinner, I looked around at the table and asked myself: would I refer a client to these women? The answer was a resounding "YES!" Then I asked a bigger question. Would I refer my own brother or sister or mom to these women if any of them needed a therapist?

 

I was stunned to her the same "YES!" at the same volume in my head.

 

I have found a group that I respect professionally, and that I trust implicitly. Even with my own family.

 

Plus, we have fun and like each other’s fiances and husbands and kids and parents – which is important when you are building life-time relationships.

 

Almost two decades after leaving my mother’s house, I am finding my tribe.

 

And it’s such a relief! Though flying solo felt a lot safer, it also was uber lonely. When things went wrong, it sucked.  When things went right, I had very few people to share it with that actually got it. And though at times I am gripped with an irrational fear that they will ditch me unexpectedly, I remind myself that my ego is a tricky saboteur. It doesn’t approve of my vulnerability or this growing intimacy with people outside my tight-knit family of origin.

 

But my spirit knows that this path of life was not meant to be walked alone.

 

And I look forward to the tribe growing and evolving as we all bring back the deliciousness of life and share it with each other, and the world.

 

Curious about who these women are? Check them out: my powerhouse super-mama: Nasreen, my deep soul-sister, Shahaa, and my long-lost giggling girlfriend Jena. And join me at www.talktosaira.com or on Jena and my YouTube Talk Show Today is Your Day if you are tired of the loneliness and want to learn to build a tribe of your own.

A Smile Goes a Long, Long Way

Truth Byte #39

“It doesn’t take much to make someone smile.” 

 

Today, I read a story to my 3-year-old daughter as she waited for her dance class to start.  While we were reading, three other little girls and and older brother that was dragged along for the carpool snuggled up around me and secretly listened.  I invited them to join us (as if they already hadn’t), and their faces lit up.  Someone noticed that they were interested and invited them to join in.

 

That was all it took. 

 

As the dance teacher came out in the middle of our second story and the girls ran in to class, the older brother, who was about four years old, was left with a half-read story and a pile of ballerina books.  He shyly leafed through the book I was reading to them, sneaking glances up at me.  I asked him if he wanted me to finish the story.  His face broke into an ear-to-ear grin as he nodded enthusiastically.  So I sat there, for just five or six minutes, completing the story with this little big brother.  And he smiled the whole time.

 

There are a lot of things we can do to make each other smile, and most of them don’t even take five or six minutes.  The easiest thing is just to smile to ourselves as we look out onto the world.  Have you ever noticed a happy stranger?  The people who walk around in the world just looking like they are at ease with everything? That’s who I challenge you to be this week.

 

But here’s the catch: it’s hard to be genuinely happy if you are

  1. Beating yourself up about something
  2. Judging other people

 

And really, those are the only two barriers.  I know this because I have met and counselled people who have every reason to be miserable, and yet, have found a way to maintain positivity.  I have also met people who seem to have all the good things, and yet their “inside voices” are like pure acid.

 

Smiling, and being willing to seeing the world through the filters of hope and positivity, is simply a choice.

 

And for the scientists out there, here is a brain-science tidbit: your mind can’t really tell the difference between a fake smile and a real one (even though your best friend probably can!) So at first, it may just be about a fake smile.  Eventually, you really will start feeling better.

 

And I am not encouraging you to be inauthentic, or just put on a happy face.  I am a true believer in showing up as you are, and being the real you.  However, there are always a variety of ways to look at any situation, and if you really look for it, there is likely a reason to smile, even if it’s just because you are smiling at the irony of it all.

 

And if it’s too hard to smile in the grown-up world that we have collectively imagined and then created, take a break from it for a while and go hang out with some kids under six.  They will remind you about wonder and curiosity and being happy for no good reason.  No kids in your vicinity? Enter YouTube.  Hundreds of videos of kids just being adorable, lovable, and laughing uncontrollably.

 

Rather than furrowing your brow at the latest world news or family drama, what if you just allowed yourself to hang out with happiness and smile?

 

It will probably make you feel better.

 

And it may even rub off on someone around you.

 

It’s your life and only you can live it!

 

Check out my weekly talkshow for inspiration and practical advice on how to live a happier and more effortless life.  More at www.talktosaira.com.

The Ice Cold Contraction

Truth Byte #30

Stay and play, don’t run away.

I was a pretty even-tempered child.  That is, until my feelings got hurt.

Growing up in the 80’s in a large, close-knit extended family that loved to tease, that happened often.  When I felt that lump in my throat, I would quickly change the subject and try to blink back the tears.  I was never very good at putting on a false show, and my face would give it all away, so they always knew I was on the verge of tears at every family event.

But I loved to play with all my cousins and be around my aunts and uncles, so no matter how insistent the jesting, I would stay.  There were others in our group that would simply remove themselves, and over the years, have distanced themselves from the drama and potential hurt of our big fat immigrant family.

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting upon how I choose to spend my time and with whom, and how layered and complex it can get in a family context.  I come from the type of family where we do complain about one another here and there, but as soon as the bad feelings are out of the mouth, they’re also out of the mind.  We do our best not to hold grudges, and hold each other accountable for the roles that each one of us play.

In a nutshell, we call each other out. 

In a nutshell, our love is strong and deep and unshakable, and yet we are not immune getting sucked in to family drama.

I think this makes us strong.  It also makes for some very tense and awkward moments.  So during these difficult conversations and scenarios I find myself facing as an adult, I remind myself of the ice cube technique that I learned during my birthing class.

The premise is simple: squeeze an ice cube in the palm of your hand for a full minute at three minute intervals.  The point of the exercise is for new moms-to-be (and their partners) to get a simulated version of the intensity of a contraction.

Now, those of us who have actually delivered a baby will laugh and shake our heads at this comparison, but when I was going through the exercise in the last trimester of my first baby, it really was quite difficult and uncomfortable.  Our teacher explained that there were two approaches to dealing with the pain of a contraction: you can either go in to the pain, or you can get away from it.  We all knew how to get away from pain, as this is something we are biologically wired to do and have been practicing all our lives.

But why would we ever choose to go IN to the pain?

And how would we even begin to do this?  It took a few tries for me to get it but when I did, it was like my world was flooded in sunshine after a dark, cold winter.

And so now, in my transpersonal counselling practice, I teach people to go in to their pain.

But’s it’s not physical pain, like the ice cube.  It’s emotional pain.

Which can be just as debilitating. 

Rather than distract themselves with their future goals or wish away their situations through good old-fashioned positive thinking, I challenge my clients to actually face the pain that is keeping them stuck.

I ask them to go in. 

And I promise to never leave them there. 

But if we aren’t willing to actually feel the pain, we can’t really move past it.  And this doesn’t mean you have to be re-traumatized.  There are certain memories that you really don’t need to re-visit.  But the feelings that we carry, deep in the most secret parts of our hearts, those deserve to be acknowledged and released.  What if we actually said to ourselves: “Yes, I feel bad about this thing that happened,” and then rather than explaining to away or spinning it in some way, we just felt that bad feeling for a moment or two?  And then (with the help of a trained professional, if needed) move on?

The really fascinating thing about feelings is that they are like little kids: when you pay attention to them from a caring place, they stop acting out, and if you ignore them, they either get more and more intense, or numb out and shut down.  So what if we all took some time this week to actually feel the cold sting of the ice cube from our own life? What if instead of distracting ourselves, we let ourselves have a good cry or a good vent or even just be willing to feel a bit uncomfortable for a while?

When you are willing to go all the way in, even the most overwhelming emotions can be distilled down to two primary impulses: moving towards (love) or moving away from (fear).

When we were infants, we only had the capacity to move towards or to move away from, to be attracted or to be repelled. So what if you just allowed that uncomfortable feeling to stay awhile and got to the bottom of it? Rather than push the pain away, you may be surprised at how it transforms you.  That’s what my family and I are learning: to stay and play instead of running away.

Even when it’s hard.

Join us in the Fall for an experiential  workshop that will show you how to effectively navigate your emotions and deal with emotional people without getting overwhelmed or numbed out.  Take advantage of our $99 Summer Slash Sale, and invite that person in your life that you know is ready for transformation to come along with you!  More at www.talktosaira.com or visit Dr. Saira’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I cut off?

Truth Byte #28

 

If you’re not supported, you are the one to blame. 

 

People tell me they are lonely.  That they have no friends.  That no one supports them.  And maybe to a point, this is true.  But let’s get honest: if you have no one to turn to, it’s probably your own fault.

 

I know that sounds harsh, especially when you are used to me being kind and loving and hopeful.  But today I have decided it’s time to tell it like it is and stop coddling you.  Because you are a grown up and you can handle it.  And you deserve to have a cheering section, even when you are struggling.

 

If you find yourself alone, cut out from life’s big party, chances are you created that scenario with your own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.

 

Let me give you an example.  There is someone in my life who is very lovable.  Funny, thoughtful, and a great friend when you are on his good side. Then, all of a sudden, he will get upset about something (sometimes something obvious, and sometimes something invisible), and suddenly he just disappears.  Sometimes he disappears for years.

 

I wonder what happens to him during this disappearing act. 

 

I imagine he stews about how he was wronged and judges and blames the person who upset him for his unhappiness.  I imagine he makes new friends, new connections, and demonstrates his love and care with them.  I imagine at some point one of them pisses him off and the whole thing begins again.  I imagine he must be very lonely and irritated during these cycles.

 

See, from his perspective it must look like people are always letting him down.

 

But from my perspective it looks like he is throwing a tantrum and not letting people have flaws and be human.  He is not really comfortable with adult relationships where people evolve and grow, sometimes in different directions.

 

Now, I am not talking about situations where there is blatant violence and abuse.  It is actually healthy to remove yourself from those people who cannot handle their feelings maturely and put you in harm's way. With many of these people, it is likely you will never see them again, unless they get the help they need.

 

I am talking instead about hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  If we keep cutting off people who care about us, we end up very isolated.

 

If no one wants to hang out with you, you have to ask yourself “why?”

 

Are you the one who is always complaining about the latest problem, pulling the conversation like a blanket around yourself while your friend freezes out in the cold? Is it always about you and what you need, or are you giving something to others too? When you give, is it because you expect that same treatment back (also called score-keeping) or is it purely to demonstrate your care and affection?

 

One-sided relationships eventually become exhausting, and whether you are the one who has pulled away or others have stopped engaging with you, chances are there is something you can do to change it.  Instead of thinking of your friendships as just about filling your tank, maybe you can think about what you could bring instead of what just you can get.

 

On the other hand, sometimes we just outgrow people.

 

And when that happens, you can gently let those people go, without drama, without heartache, without a big fight.  Just gently and kindly let them go (even if they are the ones “cutting you off”) and know that as long as you keep smiling that smile and keep shining that light, the right people will find you and start to fill the vacancies in your tribe.  And until they find you, enjoy getting to know the new you that is emerging!

 

As of today, you are not allowed to complain about loneliness.  Because there are people who are dying to see you and spend time with you.

 

Start with them, and the rest will show up.

 

Want to learn how to let people in? Want to deepen the relationships you already have? Take advantage of the summer slash sale: $99 + GST for the Relationships Workshop in Vancouver on Oct 1, 2016.  In a single day, people go from focusing only on their problems to having a roadmap for their next steps.  You will be glad you took the plunge. Register now at http://www.talktosaira.com/our-events

On Listening

Truth Byte #27

No one is listening to you. 

 

You keep talking and talking.  And no one seems to hearing a word you say.

 

Sound familiar?

 

I have this experience when we are running late for something.  I tell them and tell them that we are late, but my kids just don’t seem to hear me!  And neither do their grandparents.  For different reasons, I think.  Little ones are often in a land of their own, where time stretches and shrinks depending on if they are having fun or not.  The grandparents? Well, I think they are tired of giving a shit!

 

We are all talking, all the time, and no one really seems to be listening at all.  Or if we are listening, it’s mostly to be polite until there is a pause so we can interject our own witty additions and observations to the conversation.

 

There is one place I have found that I am really, deeply, truly listened to, and it’s a space that I don’t visit often enough:

 

On a couch or a phone talking to one of my two “shy” friends. 

 

I have known both of them for decades, and when I speak to them, they actually listen.

Deeply.  Thoughtfully.

They let me blabber a mile a minute and flit for this idea to that topic, finding the thread and keeping me grounded.  They have a warm, amused look as I talk, and they don’t interrupt.  And when they do speak, it’s insightful, connected, and rich.

 

I think these days we are supposed to call people like them “introverted”.

 

I call them steady, grounded, deep. 

 

These women know themselves, and they are incredibly perceptive about others.  Unlike me, though, their faces don’t give it away, and they don’t need everyone to know about or agree with their opinions.

 

One of my two friends, a recruiter who works at an incredible company in Alberta, was featured on Susan Cain’s blog, the Quiet Revolution. The other is a psychiatrist who deeply cares about the human spirit and is doing a fellowship on the East Coast.  What these women have taught me is that I need to listen.

 

Deeply.  Fully.  Without interrupting.

 

Which is bloody hard for an extrovert.

 

And yet, that’s my job.  I listen to people every single day.  Even on weekends.

 

For hours at a time, I listen, not only to their words, but to their bodies, their eyes, their pain.  I listen to how they speak about themselves, and how they speak about the world.  I listen for their strengths, their dreams, the untapped gifts that they have yet to discover.  Sometimes I hear things they don’t want me to hear. 

 

Sometimes I know things they didn’t even know themselves. 

 

So in my greatest challenge I have also found an unexpected treasure: the capacity to really listen to someone, to really hear what it is that they are trying to say.

 

Many times in my work and personal life, I have asked someone the “suicide intervention question” (which is basically, “Are you thinking about ending your life?”) and usually, they are shocked that I knew.  Usually, they are relieved that someone heard through the story to the heart of the matter.  Usually, they are grateful that their secret was “heard” without them having to use the words.  Usually, they get the help they need once they find their way out of that devastating silence.

 

Today, I challenge you to really listen.  Someone in your world is likely trying to tell you something.  They may be telling you directly, or they may be telling you by cutting you off and pushing you away.  They may be reaching out for help, in the clumsiest way, or they may be telling you something about yourself that you have blinders on about.

 

Listen.

 

You will be surprised at what you hear.

 

Do you want to feel heard? Do you want to become better at listening? Join us in the Fall for a transformational workshop that will help you understand what people are really talking about, underneath all the noise. Sign up today!