Be mindful of a conversation with another mom, when the conversation starts to look like a tennis match where each of you are trading stories. If there were a third-party present, one who was only observing and not participating in the conversation, they might observe the tennis match. A topic is tossed in the air for the serve. It’s Mom1 who has grabbed the ball. She shares a story, with some emotion, telling her version from start to finish. Mom2 quickly moves into place to tell her experience on the same topic, for her experience is also worth telling.
Mom1 is now mostly silent, because she is a bit deflated that Mom2 wasn’t enthralled with her story, and now is sharing an even bigger, better story. Mom1 quickly digs through her archives to find more data to share to one-up Mom2. It’s a bit competitive. Mom1 is now ready to return to the lob, but can’t quite find a moment to interject…she waits just until Mom2 begins to take a breath and she slams one in the corner, hoping to jump in and dominate the match.
While Mom1’s new story begins, Mom2’s attention is trailing off because she is sifting through her life story to come up with yet another, more incredible story. And on it goes, each waiting to prove their worth on the planet because their story is obviously more: more terrible, more unfair, more bloody, more terrific, more unbelievable than the other. Both athletes leave the court initially exhilarated because of the successful sparring, but quickly exhausted as they find that all that energy expended has left them drained and unfulfilled.
Both Mom1 and Mom2 were seeking connection; both are under the impressions that bigger and badder earn your worth in the world and buy you satisfaction. But what buys you satisfaction is connection.
How could these two tennis jocks find connection? Put down their sparring tools and learn to listen, to validate, to reflect. Each of them is seeking to be heard and understood, but neither are equipped to provide this for the other.
How do we do this? How do we learn to listen? It’s simple:
It’s not about you. It’s not your movie.
When you can actually hear another’s story, find a way to connect to how she felt during this story because of some tiny similarity in your own life, really understand how she felt; and then share that understanding by validating and reflecting that feeling back to her. Then and only then does connection happen.
Commiserating, not solving.
Companioning, not challenging.
Holding thing mirror for her, not moving the spotlight to you.
Be present for her, not anxious to steal the stage.
It’s not about coming up with a solution before she does, its hearing HER work through it to find her own best solution. It’s giving HER story an audience. Tennis partners, not opponents.
It’s not about you.
Can you do it? Can you hold space for connection to happen without trying to make it your movie?
Blog submitted by Patty Reis, WarmLine Member