Monday, September 6, 2010

Keep quiet, listen, and just let them talk.

I'm always looking for ways to improve certain behaviors. One thing I'm really working on these days is truly listening to what people say...and what they don't say. I want to notice their body language, facial expressions, and intonations and interpret what they are truly saying. Instead of reacting to something I find disagreeable I want to listen and ask questions as to why a person believes what they believe.

So, the story--I am 31 years old. As my mechanic was fixing my car he commented on how surprised he was to find out I am 31 as he thought I was in my 20s. He then went on to comment that I should be working on having kids now because if I don't I'll be a 40 year old mother (I'll be a 40-year old mother whether I have kids now or not because you're ALWAYS a mother, but that's another conversation). Time is running out, he argued, and I'd better hop to it.

I was annoyed.

I started to argue with a him a bit about how waiting has afforded me opportunities and experiences that younger mothers can't experience. And then it hit me--'why am I arguing with him?' Everyone always wants to give you unsolicited advice on how to live YOUR life. So, I decided to just listen to what he was saying and let him think he was teaching me something.

And so I listened.

He didn't ask why am unmarried or if I am going to marry soon. He didn't ask if I am dating or what my plans are for a family. He didn't ask if I was even interested in having a family, he assumed that's something I would want. He didn't ask about my experiences or where I've been or what I've seen in the world. He didn't try to find out about ME, which I found alarming; he only made assumptions about who he thinks I am. Clearly something was going on in his life where he felt the need to give me advice based on his LIMITED perspective. His current situation is not favorable. I won't tell you everything that is going on with him but I will say that he is 38 years old and lives with his mother. He's always giving me advice on something of which I am more of the expert. And yesterday I just decided to let him talk.

When I'm an occupational therapist I don't want to talk AT people like this gentlemen did without getting all the information first. He knows nothing about me. He put me into his little box and I could only be what his box dictates. I never want to treat my clients like this. Ever. It doesn't individualize people or take their perspective and life experiences into account.

And so I think I'm going to work on listening more. It's interesting what people tell you when you just shut your mouth and really listen to what they are saying. I'd better get used to it because there will be a lot of clients that feel the need to 'teach' me or think they know more than me.

I'm learning to keep quiet, listen, and just let them talk.

No comments:

Post a Comment