You are not listening!
How avoiding negative emotions can lead to complex communication problems
John did an assessment and that went pretty miserable. He had to do the assessment because he applied for a higher position. And this position requires excellent communication skills. Sadly he got the feedback ‘he was not listening’.
Do your best, do your best, do your best
John tells me that it went wrong when the assessor started asking questions. Until then it went pretty well according to John. He explained that he was somewhat tense for the conversation and didn’t do very well at previous assessments. When the assessor started asking questions ‘it all went wrong’.
“How did it go wrong?” I ask John.
He answers quickly: “I think the assessor did not fully understand me and I wanted to explain what I meant by what I had said.”
“Okay, and then?”
“Well, the assessor looked at me strangely and I explained what I had said again.”
“That is not a problem in itself, I think”, I replied.
John interrupts me even before the last word comes out of my mouth. “Yes, but I’m trying to explain it correctly!”, he says more emphatically than before, but now he doesn’t seem to be talking about the experience with the assessor but about my comment.
This continues for several minutes. Until I ask him, “As you are trying to explain to me right now, what happened during the assessment, is that happening right now as well?”
He is quiet for a couple of minutes and says: “yes, you could say that.” “It seems I do not get through to you and you do not want to hear what I say.”
“Interesting, are those thoughts you also had with that assessor?” “Yes, yes,” he says without looking or blushing. “I’m doing my best, I want to do it right.”
“What gives you the impression that you are not doing well?” I ask him. “Well if you ask me a question then … .” Now I interrupt him and ask, “what do you think and feel when something or someone gives you the impression you are not doing well?”
“Well I wonder what you want to hear.”
“What I want to hear?”, I give back to him.
“When you ask me a question, I’m immediately concerned with why you ask that question. What you would like to hear, I really want to do it right …”
“And if you did ‘not do it right’ then …?”
“Well then, well I don’t really know.”
“What do you experience when I ask a question in this case, what do you experience in your body?”
“I block completely, in my throat and chest, as if I am being put in a corner.”
“Do you only have this with assessments?” I ask him.
“No, my girlfriend complains about this too, we have a lot of altercations and she keeps telling me I’m not listening.”
“And is that true?”
“I don’t really know, I just want to give the right answer. She doesn’t get me, so I usually go on with that and then she gets angry.”
“Because she thinks I don’t listen to her at all, and it makes me tired because I try so hard.”
“So, if I understand correctly, you give answers to questions you are asked in a flash. And you base those answers on your assessment of what the other person wants to hear. You do your utmost for that.” “Is that right?”
“Yes, you could say that.”
“And you get feedback from several people that you don’t listen, is that correct?”
“Yes, it is.”
Not doing it well enough
How paradoxical it is. You want to try so hard that you don’t listen but gamble what someone else wants to hear from you. Then you are so convinced that you have to convince the other person that you have really listened. And you only keep repeating what you have made up yourself. To eventually make others feel (which is actually the case) that you don’t listen to them and they get angry with you. And may even turn away from you?
How crazy is our mind? It is almost compulsive behavior, against your better judgment and the only thing you create is what you don’t want to create. Namely that you do not ‘do well enough’ whatever you do, you do not suffice.
This kind of “reflex reaction” where you “want to be too fast in your response” is based on a very specific problem. In essence, this is avoidance behavior. A very specific form of avoidance behavior. It is an unconscious form of avoidance behavior in which the “great danger” (that which you want to avoid) is a negative emotion. You may not want to disappoint another person. Or have fear conflict. You don’t want to feel rejected or feel attacked and so on.
Do you suffer from:
- Conflict avoidance?
- Pleasing behavior?
- Fear of being rejected?
- Tension to speak in front of a group?
- Fear of being abandoned by your partner?
- Aversiveness of criticism ?
- Feeling attacked quickly?
- Feeling rejected?
- Doing your very best?
- Not listening and answering too fast and wondering what someone else wants to hear?
- Wanting to give the right answer?
You are probably unconsciously avoiding the emotion that can occur if any of the above happens. You probably experience this as so threatening that you have to do everything to prevent it. A super-fast answer where you gamble what someone else wants to hear seems like a very good solution.
Do you recognize this? Do you want to change this? Go to Relation Emotion Therapy and Coaching for the more about this subject. Would you like to be free from these kinds of fears? Then register for an intake interview!