What words really mean

This morning, I was taking my daily walk on the beach this morning and catching up with a dear friend. She recently moved back in with her parents and her newborn and after having been away from home for so long, there is some tension. She was sharing how she wanted to set boundaries in her parenting, and yet honor her mother’s point of view at the same time. I am sure all mothers can relate to this.:)

We talked about how sometimes we can be “saying” the same words, but the meaning behind it can be interpreted completely different by each person. Especially if we don’t have the same “tools” work through a difficult conversation.

Take for example, the simple 3 words “I hear you.” We say that to make someone feel heard, right?
Here is an example of a conversation gone batty.

Person A: Share or tell me something, well meaning and intended. I don’t agree with what she says.

Me: Focusing on my point of view, and wanting to be sympathetic at the same time, I respond with “I hear you, or something along the lines of we can agree to disagree.”

Person A: Only hear the  word “disagree” feels hurt, defensive, like she said/did something wrong.

Me: Thinking I validated her with “I hear you” is stumped and back peddles to save the conversation.

In the end, both parties feels unheard, unsupported and dances around the yuck. Protective walls might go up, etc.

I shared with my friend, just what if…your mom doesn’t have tools to process the same learnings you have picked up in your spiritual journey? What if she grew up wanting to help, and equates being helpful as love?

Has this ever happened to you? An awkward conversation. You find yourself in a communication loop about where it went wrong.
If you are a life learner like me, I sometimes forget that we communicate at all different levels… especially when it comes to affairs of the heart.

Today is world mental health day. This blog is dedicated to my mom, who was in so much mental pain when she exited this world.
We’ve had similar dialogues like the above. It wasn’t until the year before her death that I came around to accept and recognize the mental loop she put herself through.   She was an undiagnosed bi-polar who did not receive the mental health support she truly needed. As a result, there were many “loops” that occurred in her thoughts. And many times where I felt I wasn’t heard, because truly, I couldn’t have been any more clear with my information. It saddened my heart when I recognized she couldn’t receive the information due to her illness.

If you have someone who “challenges” you …take extra time out today to listen and accept the place they may be coming from. We don’t know how their thoughts “loop” in their minds. We may think we are being very clear, and the truth is, information could be received so differently. Perhaps he/she do not capacity to receive what you are saying to them right now.

Does this resonate? I would love to hear below any difficult conversations you’ve had and how you resolved it.  And more love too and hug those you love!


8 thoughts on “What words really mean”

  1. After reading your blog post, I feel like I need to take the time to talk and share with my boyfriend tonight. We don’t have any particular problem, but talking help us build our relationship.

    And I’m pretty sure that this applies for everybody! 🙂

    • Genevieve, I hope your chat with your b-friend was filled with grace and ease! There’s always more than enough love to around, just sometimes what seems like not enough time to just sit in do it.:) I myself is guilty of the same thing. My husband often says to me, I’ve seen you…yes but I haven’t really SEEN you or connected all day.

  2. We all hear things through our own filters and experiences. It’s really important to make sure that we’re communicating clearly and that the other person has heard the true meaning of our communication. In certain contexts, you can ask the person to repeat back to you what they heard. You can also repeat to other people what you think they’ve said and ask if you’ve heard them accurately.

  3. Excellent post. Wow, I also was under the impression that if I say “I hear you” and repeat back, that the other person would feel heard and validated but clearly that can backfire if the words are not chosen properly. Thank you for the insight, Claire!

    • Christina,
      🙂 isn’t it fascinating, those three little words…It reminds me of others ones we sometimes say out of habit too…

  4. I find this to be very true in my work with clients, so I always try to ask them about what they are feeling and repeat back to them what they heard. Asking people to engage a little more deeply on this level also tends to make people more present in the conversation they are having to begin with. Oftentimes, when people aren’t hearing you, they are stuck in worry, fear, or some other equally paralyzing emotion. Sometimes just inviting people to share what they are truly feeling … letting them know that they are in a safe space can help them open up and to also hear you more fully.


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