22 September 2019

Learning to Listen without Getting Defensive

Have you ever been in a conversation and felt that the other person was not really listening to you?

Perhaps you have observed a conversation and realized, Hmmm, that person is not really listening but just waiting to respond. Chances are, if someone was giving you feedback instead of making you feel truly heard, your first response might be defensiveness.

We all have flaws in our personality - things we are not proud of that perhaps affect how we act or relate to other people. Over the last five or six years, I have become more aware that one weakness of mine is defensiveness.

Relationship therapist Dr. John Gottman uses the metaphor of the Four Horsemen to describe four types of communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship. 

They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The third in Gottman's list, defensiveness is typically a response to criticism from another individual. It is a way of reacting, but you might not always notice that in the moment.

How do we listen authentically without getting defensive?

It may be more difficult now than ever. People seem to be more divided on topics, which makes it exhausting to enter into healthy dialogue rather than reacting and getting defensive.

Read the rest over at Verily . . .

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06 September 2019

My Sunflower Summer

I have never been the type to enjoy gardening. 

When we had family work days growing up, I would make some excuse about needing to go to the bathroom. I then proceeded to grab a stack of books and go sit in the bathtub reading until my parents noticed my long term absence.

When I started living on my own, my mom helped me take the time to garden herbs or have some potted plants in the spring and summer months.
Nothing fancy.
Just enough to brighten up my balcony.

This year around Memorial Day, we were filling some pots with different flowers and Mom came across a package of sunflower seeds. We tossed a few in one of the larger pots, watered it, and I took it home.

This entire summer I faithfully been watering my sunflower plant. It grew tall and strong. Green and stocky.

But the frustrating thing was it never produced any sunflower blooms. I was getting frustrated. 
I did my part in the watering. 
Come on already, give a little!

I jokingly started referring to it as "the sunflower plant that never bloomed."

I kept on watering, but in my mind just accepted it may never happen.

The second week of August I went to Florida to visit a dear friend. The Tuesday I came home and saw the wind blew over my sunflower plant. After I hauled in my luggage, I went on the balcony to tip up the plant. 

As I stood the plant up, I saw one solitary sunflower bloom on the verge of opening.

In that moment, Jesus stopped me and caught my attention.

"Do you see that sunflower bloom?" 

Yeah, so what?

"Come back to this. Let's talk about it more."

The next few morning over my coffee and morning prayer, I talked with Jesus about that one sunflower. I listened to what He had to say to me about it.

And that was?

"All summer long, you thought that plant would never bloom. You thought things would never change. But then all of sudden, something changed. You were surprised. That sunflower is analogy for your life right now. Life will unfold and just surprise you."

Yes, Lord. 
Those realizations and early morning heart chats were exactly my little heart needed.

Life often does not go how we imagine, dream, or plan. But to hear the voice of the living God speak to me in moments of loneliness or uncertainty is pure gift. 

There is such a comfort in knowing the voice of God, that He desires to speak and reveal Himself to me in the smallest, simplest ways.

Even in something like a sunflower. 

In a few days I turn 34.

I have no idea what the year will bring. In some ways I was shocked to see how certain things went this past year.

What I have learned from my sunflower summer is that you cannot prepare for your life. It will unfold in time. Just be open, live with open hands, and allow yourself to be surprised.

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