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Listen. Speak. Don’t Speak.

February 19, 2013

I think I’ve mentioned that one of things I regret the most is to not be able to make amends if I am in the wrong. If someone has an issue with me and has not come to me, how can I know? How can I fix things?

The same can be said if I choose not to address someone. Currently, I don’t have enough data and can only make assumptions that surely if I was in the wrong they would have said something to me by now.

If this is my Year of Listening I understand that in order to listen we have to sometimes stop speaking.

Choosing not to speak out of a general lack of desire for confrontation isn’t the same thing.

I want to be able to change, to improve myself. I will guarantee you though that 95% of the time my initial reaction will not always be pleasant. But given the chance to dialogue, to process, then the end results are worth it–I guarantee you I will apologize and do all that I can to repay the wrong.

It seems simple enough but we as a society so rarely go through the discomfort to the end result. It is easier to make assumptions, to assume that initial defensiveness or anger is how a person truly feels or “there is no reasoning with them–they’ll only bite my head off.”

I have encountered a few people in my life that will have the epitaph “They were having a bad day” on their tombstones. Everyone excuses the bad behavior of these individuals with this phrase and the rest of us just have to stomach it. I’m baffled by that because I have never been able to get away with that. It seems I eventually have to make amends for my bad days. And honestly I’m okay with because I do not want that for my epitaph but I’ve often pondered why people get away with things, why these excuses are acceptable.

I’ve had some recent interactions with one of these “Bad Day” people who naturally earn a very defensive posture from anyone who interacts with them–I’m not the only one and I had to confirm this. I had to stop speaking to see anything of any value in what they were saying. I have to try to answer without a chip on my own shoulder. I have found that with these “Bad Day” people you have to subtly pepper your conversation with your own “bad day” just to get them to realize we all have our own struggles. You certainly cannot point out their behavior is negatively effecting everyone (affecting? ugh I never get these two straight).

I’ve responded to the best of my ability. I was asked if it felt like a relief to have done so. “Honestly, no. It was agonizing. Every word had to be chosen carefully. But I do feel I did my best and in that I’m okay.”

And now I have to stop speaking. I have to allow the ball to stay on their side of the court. If not, it negates in-roads I may have made to get them to listen. I have to actually let it go. I have to listen.

Because listening is the only way I won’t be taken by surprise. I feel so vulnerable. What will be handed back to me? What mistakes will be shown to me, even though their “Bad Day” doesn’t give them the right to behave badly but they still do with such a strong belief it is everyone else’s fault?

If I am listening, if I am holding on to my desire to have the chance to change, then I have to give that to others. If I am listening I cannot assume “surely they would have spoken to me by now” if I have given offense. Couldn’t they say the same of me with each passing day I stay quiet? I have to face the discomfort of opening up a can of worms and the possibility my “Bad Day” created a problem.

Yup, the Year of Listening. Some times you have to speak, even if it means getting corrected.

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