For a moment, I was thinking about what you need out of this conversation.
Although I always told myself that I have the other person’s interest at heart whenever I interact, the feeling I had yesterday was new. I grew up with “treat others as you would like to be treated,” and “a person’s true character is defined in how he/she treats people who can do nothing for them,” or words to that effect.
I know a little bit about a lot of people.
But in the end, I have never let my guard down, to ask more than was necessary to build a friendly, relationship. This applies to business and for the most part, friends. I haven’t been interested in learning too much about others. Conversations lasting more than 20 or 30 seconds make me itchy.
My mind begins to wander off into the future and flashes to the 10 or so things that are next on my list. How can I listen to more about your concerns about your cousin’s sister’s family and their problem with the cat who has been missing for several days?
So, I time travel into the future and get the hell out of the present moment.
The present can be messy. It is almost never orderly and neat. It is a place where I have no control. Well, it is a place where I have control over just one thing. And that is how I think about what is happening. I can control what I think and how I frame my thoughts and actions.
That is the best thing anyone can control.
It turns out, I have been framing my thoughts while in the present in a way that allows me to mostly avoid the present moment. Sometimes I slip into the past, but mostly I escape to the future, where I have 100% control over my thoughts, other people’s thoughts, and everyone’s actions.
I can build a picture in my head of what is going to happen and wrap up the issue for myself without ever getting my hands dirty. And in the end, I cheat both myself and the person I am speaking within the present moment.
Now I cannot say whether this type of thinking, of avoiding the present, is a product of my depression or just a way people in general cope with life. But I do know that I can do a better job of listening to others, of hearing and seeing in my head what they need.
Twice yesterday, I listened to what someone was saying.
I was not listening with the intention of getting my next thought out as they took a breath. I didn’t focus on getting my opinion, my version, my idea forced out into their problem. It turns out I was listening to what they were saying beneath “what they were saying.”
It is a little hard to explain because I have only given lip service to this idea for most of my adult life.
But, doing it, and then doing it again on the same day, is a landmark moment. And the great part about it was that it did not take any more time than avoiding the real intent of the person’s message. By not time-traveling into the future, I heard and felt what they were wanting to say. And I was able to respond in a helping, caring way. That cut through all the polite, fluff, and answered their question in a deep, connected sense.
My plan now is to try it again whenever the chance presents itself.
It felt good and I feel that I was a help to the two people I spoke with. I walked away with a deeper understanding of them. It seems to me they walked away feeling good about themselves. They had tools they could use for the future. With real answers, not just fluff responses I create to move the conversation to a place where I can escape it.