In almost any situation, honoring someone's choice creates better connection. Autonomy is one of the most important human needs. When someone has the perception that you are talking to them without considering their choice, resentful listening is often the result. What you’re sharing isn’t really heard or honored.
When you want to share something and be heard, first check if your potential listener is truly available. In this way, you honor yourself as well as the other person’s choice about listening. Pausing to check in before you share is more nuanced than you might think. You need to be clear in yourself that you want a particular quality of listening and that you are willing to wait if that isn’t available in the moment. The other person needs to trust that saying no really is okay. Some people may need help understanding that your request is actually a request and not a demand.
Let’s look at some ways to ask for listening. Checking in with your potential listener might sound something like this:
Do you have space to hear about my day?
Do you want to sit for a few minutes and share about our days?
Can I tell you what happened today?
Can I tell you something?
Is this a good time to share about…?
I have something to share. Are you up for hearing it?
I have a celebration. Can I share it with you?
I am wanting to tell you about ______. Are you interested in hearing?
I notice that I am needing empathy. Are you in a place for that?
Next, offer clarity that you are not making a demand. To help prevent the automatic “yes” from certain people, you can include consideration of their needs in your request. Adding phrases like those below can support someone in making an authentic choice. In addition, it shows that you really are willing to receive a “no.”
Or would you prefer to talk later?
Or are you needing some quiet?
Or are you really focused on what you are doing?
Or does that topic seem like too much right now?
Or would just listening to nature as we walk be better for now?
This week, practice checking in with someone before you start a conversation. Practice a variety of ways to honor their choice in listening or not. When someone does consciously choose to listen to you, notice if there is a difference in your quality of connection and your sense of being heard.