It’s a funny thing, not speaking up. We’re really taught, explicitly and implicitly, that the loudest, fastest, and most forceful opinions are the most intelligent. (Read The Myth of Charismatic Leadership: Harvard Business School and Beyond in Susan Cain’s Quiet for more on that!) And we know listening is important, but that transition from I-listened to now-you-listen-to-me is a funny thing.
When I graduated college, I took a “temporary” job that lasted 2 years. I worked as the live-out, full-time housekeeper in a wealthy home. I always say that job taught me a LOT, first and foremost being how to shut up. My input was NOT requested. And I got to experience a small slice of life in all its glory and mess, mostly as an observer. Yet, somehow, I still have trouble shutting up.
Finally I answered a Craigslist ad and somehow became a pilates instructor, then the owner of the pilates studio (more on that story another time.) 7+ years on, literally thousands of classes later, and I still run my mouth too often. It’s fitting that “motormouth” was a nickname I carried well as a child.
I’ve found myself doing it again this week. One woman describes her post-workout dinner options: scrambled eggs or PBnJ. She also talks about the veggie burger sliders she had in the freezer, that became a quick lunch. I describe mixing together a sweet potato and quinoa patty, with yummy spices and a nice crisp from the pan, and talk about plastic-wrapped food and BPAs. Why?
Why can’t I shut my pie hole? How ‘bout this, smarty-pants: ask her about WHY she doesn’t like to cook. Ask her IF she wishes to alter her food choices AT ALL. Let HER tell me what she wants. I see what she may need- better quality fuel for the body she’s trying to have at her
wedding this spring. But what she WANTS is really all that matters, is what she has to work with.
There are so many ‘good ideas’ bumping around in my brain when she starts talking. But she’s not talking in order to hear ideas from me! In this role as fitness instructor, I can let her know I have alternatives, and I can also alienate her by being judgmental and unsupportive. Even in the healer role, if she came to me for help with her overall health, she STILL wouldn’t like to cook and rhapsodizing about the wonders of Penzeys Spices and cast iron would STILL alienate her.
My roommate has a magnet on our fridge that says, “Sometimes what people need is a good listening to.” Man-In-My-Life was unusually talkative and open this weekend, and although I had LOTS to interject and ask and suggest I forcibly kept my mouth closed, and he went in a TOTALLY different direction than I expected. Of COURSE he did! It was HIS conversation, even though I was expecting MINE. Had I said any of what I was thinking, it would have steered him somewhere else, anywhere else but to the place he needed to go.
Now, I know this lesson. We all do. Maybe I hope that by putting these facts out there, reminding myself publicly that I have TWO ears and ONE mouth for a reason, I will listen better the next time I find myself talking. I like having answers, it’s fun to give people information they value and didn’t have before. But sheesh! Who am I to guess what each individual actually needs to learn?
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
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