I know this sounds ridiculous, but Dr. Phil changed my life. He really did. Back in 2007, when I was browsing through books at the library in Syracuse, UT, I happened upon his book, "Self Matters," and I read it. Like any good self help book, I didn't actually need to read the whole thing for it to change my life... it hit home right from the beginning. I learned that I was not a victim of circumstance in my life, but that I was at the helm... and so began the 18-month court battle that ended in our relocation to Arizona. Even though it was a very challenging time in our lives, I have never regretted going for it.
I guess the point is, I think that man knows what he is talking about... and even though it feels like a guilty pleasure, I've been watching his show lately. The other day, he had a woman and her out-of-control teenage daughter... the mom claimed she despised her daughter's behavior, while the daughter claimed that her mother encouraged it. Every time her daughter made a claim, she would sigh, roll her eyes, look up at the ceiling, and start to say something but then stop herself. You could just see the retort forming in her mouth, ready to burst out at any given moment. She was utterly exasperated, and I couldn't help but side with her and sympathize with her cause... until Dr. Phil jumped in. He told her that her daughter was crying out for help, but that she was so busy being right about everything that she couldn't ever hear it. He told her she never really listens. And suddenly, the mother up there was me. Oh crap, I thought, that is probably exactly how I act when I "know" I'm right. Usually, I'm just glad I'm nothing like any of the people on Dr. Phil, but this time I was totally guilty!
Writing this post kind of sucks because I'd like to perpetuate the illusion that I am perfect and have no problems (haha!), but now I have to admit that I am a really lousy listener. When people tell me stories, it only reminds me of stories about myself that I want to tell them. My mind is usually moving at about 100 miles an hour, and I don't seem to have patience for long stories or moments of silence. I interrupt a lot. When I'm having a disagreement and it's the other person's turn to talk, I'm constantly formulating some "awesome" response that will totally discredit everything they are saying. I don't listen for the merit in their point of view. I'm so busy trying to convince people why my way is the right way that I never learn a darn thing from anyone else!
During our pillow talk time the other night, I was telling Russ about the realization I had about my listening skills. His response? "Can't say I disagree." I guess that's better than, "Duh!" So now the challenge is to try to unlearn all my bad habits and learn to listen... I started practicing that night. When he was talking, I tried to become aware of how the things he was talking about affected him, to feel empathy for his feelings. When I thought of something to say, I just held it and listened some more. I let long periods of silence elapse before beginning to speak. Right here, I want to say how great it was and that I'm a changed woman, but the truth is that it was really hard. It was like going on a diet. Why can't I get out of my own head for a few minutes and just pay full attention to someone else? I hope I can develop this skill and get better over time because I know most arguments are the result of two people not being able to see eye to eye, and if I could listen more, maybe that would help me see things from someone else's perspective. The people in my life are good people, not perfect, but wonderful human beings worth listening to.