I used to have the same painful dialogues with my parents for years. They'd typically share a danger they saw on the news or some concerns/advice for me, and our conversations would end in frustration.
Only in the last few years did I begin to understand why.
Whenever this happened, I'd be unconsciously filtering their words. I wasn't listening to what they were saying but instead listening to my points of view and judging them.
Here are some of those listening filters I'd frequently have, stuck in my head:
- I already know (what you'll say; how you'll respond)
- I have better (options; information; perspectives)
- I am right (about my beliefs; about my choices)
Our conversations were doomed from the start. I pushed them away and shut them down with my responses.
My parents usually only have a few main goals: share that they love me & that they care that I'm safe, healthy, and happy. But because of my filters, I couldn't hear the heartfelt meaning behind their words.
When they don't feel heard, they repeat themselves. It's what most people do, including me. No wonder!
Active listening has nothing to do with agreeing or obeying. It is creating a space for others to feel that their thoughts and feelings are acknowledged.
I've come to embrace that I can never guarantee that my parents (or anyone) will hear me, but I can always control how I help others feel heard.
In doing so, the former happens, as if by magic.