It’s Free to Listen

It’s free to listen, yet somehow we struggle and find ourselves on the costly end of communication. About two weeks ago, I was surfing online and a great dialogue between an African-American and a Caucasian contributor was recorded. I enjoyed the viral video because it illustrated why the country finds itself divided on every topic imaginable. Simply put, listening is free but we don’t do it. See in this video the African-American male was very aware of his own biases and the biases that others bring to discussions. What grabbed my attention was the Caucasian male stating what he interpreted which reflected the art of not listening. It wasn’t about understanding someone’s else perspective. It was about hearing what was said at that moment.

This post isn’t about that discourse or race. It’s about those missed opportunities to listen that leave us embarrassed or disconnected from potential opportunities or even worse-the ones we love. 

Recently, I have been paying close attention to moments of when I listen to hear, listen to take over, and barely listen at all.

Listening to hear is like combing or detangling your hair (shout out to all my naturals) with nothing (no debris or product) pre-existing in the comb. It’s a blank canvas moment where something great can happen (I happen to think detangling is a great moment if I do say so). It means the party listening isn’t blocking or filtering communication with their past experiences, victim cards, vendetta, future goals, or just the clutter of their own perspective. It’s what we all long for when we want to share experiences, dreams, or even fears.

Listening to take over is simple debate and even sometimes part-time conversation. This is when someone shares with us current events of the day, day-to-day nuances, or anything to catch us up and we tune in long enough to pull the topic away. We never mean to run down monologue lane but it’s so fun. Before you know it, we hi-jack a well-meaning shareable moment or exchange and soap box the conversation down as if we are running for election (I’ve done this a time or two-my apologies). Thus, leaving the person who began the conversation bewildered for even trying yet again to talk to us.

Yes, I see that your hand is raised. You want to know whether or not you have done this to someone. Oh, my friend. I’m quite sure. See this listening to take over isn’t limited to just snatch and grab conversation. It also occurs when every other line of the conversation is interrupted with questions (my deepest sin) instead of listening/following along. Sometimes this occurrence sounds like a bad soap opera as someone who is stuck in their issues finds every possible analogy or similarity between your reveal and their unfinished business. Please don’t have me illustrate with an example. That would probably hurt us all-honestly!

Now, we have my all-time favorite conversation price buster…*great time for some storm trooper theme music from star wars* Clears throat.  Barely listening at all is the name of this game. We are all guilty. This is when we begin to listen and then just slip on to the following:

  • the night
  • a land far away
  • some place we would love to travel
  • the television show we are watching
  • prayer
  • honey do list
  • grocery shopping
  • the next day at work
  • plug-in your favorite escape

Yes, these are some of the great places we escape to when we are not committed to giving someone our presence and attention. This is an excellent way to encourage the ones you love or work with to slink back to whatever they were doing before talking to you. For those yearning for more explanation…this is what we do when our gadgets, entertainment, or solitude is more inviting than those vying for our attention. It happens when people begin to talk and we look up with no clue of the last 5 minutes of conversation. It occurs when we are asked a question or solicited for feedback that we cannot give because we went rogue after the fifth vowel of the first sentence. We never mean any harm but we are usually the most offended when the tide turns and we are ignored in this same manner.

Now that we covered that ground, let’s address the point of this blog. We cannot truly understand each other until we are willing to show up and listen with our hands down. That’s right, put down our perspective, campaigns, and gadgets. That is the only way to really show up in conversation. We are too plugged and overly opinionated. There are so many opportunities that lie wait-but our attention is the key to seizing those moments. Let’s take the make it to 2015 challenge beginning now.

When we are busy-let’s just ask that people come back to us when we can willingly listen.

If being a busybody is your excuse-then now you will be alone in more ways than one when you least need it.

Give similar and dissenting views a chance. Just because you relate-doesn’t mean that you really have to. There is a thing called over relating (not a word). Sometimes people just need to be heard.

Lastly, commit to being present. People can kick it with themselves. Instead we all try to share our time with people. Don’t make others regret sharing their time with you. Pull back, disarm, release, perk up your ears, clear out/declutter your mind, and listen.

Held UP in Fear

Lately, I have been researching and combing through anecdotes regarding the truth on fear and anger. I found some remarkable truths both experiential and clinically about fear.

Fear is a false substitute and mask that steps in front of the following thoughts & emotions to protect a person (ego):

  • Shame
  • Vulnerability
  • Inadequacy
  • Dismissal
  • embarrassment
  • Invisibility
  • *you fill in the blank*

I was utterly shocked by this revelation. I have wrestled with anger my entire adulthood and not being able to swiftly process my feelings as fast as I can create my own narrative to soothe the ego. This stopped me dead in my tracks. I literally allowed my mind to journey back to offense after offense that severed or almost severed relationships with friends, colleagues, and family members. In each one of those instances, I was able to identify some version of fear as the culprit. See when I can replace the word anger or sadness with fear, then i can arrive at one of the words above in the bulleted list.

I wonder how many every day run ins or arguments could be turned into something productive if we were better in tuned with our emotions, especially fear. For example, this morning I wanted to grab some breakfast and hurried over to a place (they are doing the monopoly promotion too lol) and found two individuals blocking the entire parking lot in a dispute. The man and woman were raging at each other because a vehicle accident had occurred. Two individuals who if time permitted were locked into fear of consequences but chose to blame one another for being human. He was on the phone and blocking parked cars. She was in a hurry and probably financially cannot afford to be at fault. Both have something to lose and fear took over with the screams and shouts. He didn’t want to be in violation of driving and being on the cell (poor courtesy with blocking cars too) and she doesn’t want to be liable for repairs or citation. Both individuals are afraid but what’s the likelihood that they will ever pinpoint fear. That would require vulnerability.

Perhaps we all need to slow our pace and hear our spirits the next time we find ourselves bent out of shape. That would be the perfect time to do an emotional inventory for fear before allowing ourselves to become offended.

It’s All in the Delivery!

My journey back to Georgia has provided me with a wealth of behavioral reflection to behold. I have watched over the years different friends and family transition and transform as butterflies emerging from the cocoon of change. In short, my time away from mainstream hustle and bustle affords me time to see myself and others in rhythm. One of the funniest things that I have observed time over is our delivery of messages to one another.

Managerial communication was my favorite course in undergraduate studies. The class helped me see the barriers with sending and receiving communication. I think a lot of times we use these wonderful tools at work but abandon them once we enter the thresholds of our homes. Before leaving my previous employment late Summer I was privy to facilitating an ice breaker called ‘airplane.’ Communication was the objective and everyone had a specific role to play.

The game stands out in my mind because each participant had a letter, role, and a set pattern of who and how to send messages. Before the game began, we as facilitators, helped everyone in our groups understand their role and how to communicate messages. Once the game began the hysterics came out of the closet. Mid way through the game, my most patient and fun-loving friends were ready to snatch me dry because I stopped delivering their messages to one another. See if the messages were not addressed with the specific heading or subject line, the mail (me) did not run. I would tuck the message aside and only deliver messages that were properly addressed within the parameters provided before the start of the game.

I chuckled a couple of weeks back when this game back to remembrance. I also think of this ‘delivery’ of message or mail from the game in relation to the way we as human communicate especially when there is confusion or discord. Perhaps if we consider the following barriers to communication alternate means could be employed to ensure the message or delivery makes its final destination.

  • Personal intent this is where we size up what is achievable or desired in our message.
    • What do i hope to gain from my message (debate, suggestion, relatable story, or rebuke)?
    • The previous bullet asks for us to be honest with our intentions because that will affect the choice of words, illustrations, and non-verbal cues we employ to send our messages.
  • Missing information
    • When messages are not properly transmitted or received-slow down and acknowledge what is missing.
      • Ask open-ended questions to ensure what you are interpreting is what the sender intended. So many times we are on two different planes smiling and waving.
      • Parrot back messages so the sender has an understanding of what you are hearing. Our personal experiences filter what we hear.
      • If something does not make sense think about where you found yourself lost and speak from that place with the same tone you prefer others to use with you.
  • Ownership
    • We are responsible for meeting each other part way. There cannot be an argument if two people are committed to respect.
    • If hurt feelings surface, ask for what you need. Do you need a time out? Maybe you need the person to repeat words to verify statement. Are you and the speaker operating with different communication styles? Use old conversations to help yourself identify triggers and poor communication habits.
    • Name calling, low blows, physical attacks, and silent treatment are masks for hurt feelings. Don’t resort to these. Drill down to your roots by admitting you have been triggered and remove self from conversation until you can be present without bitterness or resentment.

I want us as we wrap up the Fall and Winter of 2014 to enter 2015 with stronger communication in our lives. That happens we begin to assess our pitfalls and desire to understand how to find healthy ways of approaching difference in opinion, objective, or view-point. Ultimately, our messages like the mail remain undelivered when we do not check the barriers that stand in our way.

Letters to Coretta Vol. 3

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Auntie Coretta,

I promised last go round that I would follow-up our next conversation about the LGTBQIA community. I procrastinated on this letter to you far longer than any of the other ones. I wrestled with my standpoint and what I wanted to share. I have been paying attention to the testimonials that have been circulating social media. I was inspired just moments ago to shift my thoughts to my own personal journey with becoming an Ally.

Auntie Coretta, it really started for me when I met my beloved friends from Miami. They are my angels and I would do anything for them. They literally bring me sunshine daily from miles away. A few years later, I would meet three instrumental individuals that would educate me so much through interactions about the LGTBQIA community and why the work is never done to lend support. Around this time, there was a huge influx of state amendments supporting the outlaw of same-sex marriages.

Over the years, my relationship with these individuals and many more helped my eyes to widen regarding the injustices and inhumane treatment for anyone belonging to the LGTBQIA community. My status as a African, American (Creek Native too) female could relate on what it felt like to be regarded as less than human. It was that sentiment that helped me to begin to sift through my own beliefs about human rights for all especially this community. See, I align as Christian. The ideals that I grew up with advocated that certain lifestyles were unacceptable and were not to be recognized. However, my focus would become the love that Jesus has for all and the justice that everyone deserves as human beings.

I understand and do not believe we all must think alike or co-sign on the lives of others. However, I do believe that since I am of the Christian faith I must love as Jesus loves. The Bible highlights a whole host of unacceptable behavior and living. I don’t know the last time I walked up to a ‘whoremonger’ and condemned him or her. I can’t remember the first time I lobbied for those who covet thy neighbors belongings to not receive benefits for their partners. Auntie, I’m not trying to be loose with the Word. What I am focusing on is the core of Christianity. My love for all surpasses expression and identity. No belief will allow me to discriminate against any. No ideal can justify any human not having access to services, benefits, and respect in general.

See, I’m not interested in trying to recite literature in this letter. I’m interested in tugging the hearts of all so that we can do our part to learn to listen, share, and respect. Notice, I didn’t ask for anyone to co-sign, condone, or believe. Give someone your heart and listen to their story. Give someone the time of day by operating in love. Learn to respect and accept those that are different from you by allowing services to benefit all. We can’t continue to reference ourselves as free if we don’t make time and regard all communities/identities under the sun.

I say thank you Auntie Coretta. Before you left us years ago, you made mention of the need for justice for all including the LGTBQIA family. The key word is family. It’s time to allow family not to just have a seat at the table but to be cloaked in the acceptance that the word family truly connotates.

PS_that picture above is of my former Graduate Assistant who continues to fight for the equitable rights of all!

Letters to Coretta Vol. 2

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Auntie Coretta,

It’s been a few weeks since my last entry. Much has transpired during that time but some of the things still rest on my mind. One thing of interest I want to tell you about is the ebb and flow of gender and socialization since you left. Specifically, the edification or lack thereof Women in our nation. You can say we need to continue allowing the candle of hope to burn on this one. There have been great strides over the past years as well as setbacks. We all know that progress requires both. Without the setbacks there is no fire to light and path to blaze.

I am happy to write that there are activists of all genders and walk of life advocating for the better regard and respect of Women in many different facets.

  • There is still disparity in pay between genders in the work force but more data is being disseminated to educate EVERYONE in their role to alleviate this discrimination. Women are even being empowered to learn how to negotiate benefits and face their fears with being competitive in the work place. Now, we just have to become more consistent and congruent with our practices with accountability.
  • There are more research articles and case studies provided to help Women of all ethnicities, religions, and races better understand how to supervise and support each other in the work place. It is not enough that we have Women in Administration, Management, Supervision, etc. We have to continue sharing and learning each other’s story. I had the privilege at ACPA Conference 2013 to attend a host of presentations that focused on empowering Women in the workplace and managing differences in cultural differences. 
  • Additionally, I had the privilege last March (2014) to present at Women’s Leadership Conference in which the presenters and attendees were active in identifying how to better mentor and develop the current networks of Women as well as the young ladies that are growing into leadership.

These opportunities allow me to feel opportunistic regarding the reception of Women in any setting. However, we do have a ways to go.

  • Some may look at videos of female entertainers and advocate empowerment by owning our on sexuality. That’s a double edge sword. Owning sexuality also requires helping our young ladies and girls to know that their talent is governed by their sexuality or limited. Owning sexuality requires having pivotal truth based conversations about relationship building, coping, building identity, and making your own decisions regardless of what friends, celebrities, and albeit even parents (all parents do not render best guidance-check the news).
  • I am even finding it harder to celebrate music the way that I used to due to the hatred of Women. Our music is saturated with disdain for women but most times if you show up to a concert it will be majority women. I can’t point the finger at anyone but women on this. I’ve been a part of this problem for years. Even sometimes now I have to catch myself. We can’t keep lying to ourselves and buying the lie that bitch, ho, thot, whore, and whatever else are terms of endearment. No, those are the seeds of hurt being spewed by women and men that have deep seated pain involving women. They just haven’t gone to counseling yet Auntie. They don’t know.
  • Finally, our heterosexual men have got to be held to a standard of congruence Auntie. Stop telling little boys they throw like or worse than a woman. There are women pitchers, ball players, etc. that could lap any man on earth. Athleticism spans all genders. These same God fearing men would tell you they mean no harm but you are a part of the problem by downing or likening ‘girl’ to some derogatory thing. Stop it. This was one small example, but if we listen closer to what our men are saying—there are seeds of hatred towards women there. This is not a male bashing rant. It’s a call to listen harder to what is being said and confront it. It’s also a call for Men to do their part in ownership towards the lack of regard for Women.

As you see Auntie, things are neither all good nor all bad. We’re not in the middle either. Always will be work to do but I am happy there are more websites, groups, and all genders championing equity in the treatment of women. Some days I still feel like it hurts being a woman but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

PS-next chat Auntie Coretta-we’ll have to clue people in on advocacy/justice for the lgbtqia community. But for now, we’ll leave them with this.

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice,” she said. “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’” “I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people,” she said. – Reuters, March 31, 1998. (C.S.King)

Getting REAL and creating an OPENING

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I am a believer in numbers. Often times, a message will or theme will manifest itself numerically through different formats. In my case, I’ll hear a friend mention something and a specific word will stick with me. I’ll hear that word or message in a song, a film, and even a sermon in days to come. I simply call it confirmation. It is typically something I need to affirm or acknowledge within myself or in my current circumstance.

August 2014, I stepped down from my full time position with a great department at a wonderful institution. I knew when I arrived at this decision that the Lord was going to take his time with me and helped me hear again. My physical or hearing in the natural is fine. My spiritual ears were in need of a massive tune up. The past 6 weeks have been tremendous. It’s been a roller coaster ride that have revealed 3 key things missing in my bowl of ingredients:

  1. Openness
  2. Vitality
  3. Connectivity

In a small span of time, God has shown me in the lives of others and within myself that it takes open heart and mind to receive. Great things happen when there is an open space for opportunity to be cultivated. I am quick to fall into a rat race of errands and routine that I forget to leave my day open for just cause. I have realigned and shifted my mindset. When I rise in the morning, I leave my day to God. I still pre plan and acknowledge tasks deserving of my attention-but i’m open to the shifts that life bring. By doing so, I have fallen back in love with the small things like crisp fall air in the morning, dew on the grass, and birds chirping before sunrise. I have also born witness to the great opportunities and blessings that will find their way to your doorsteps when there’s room enough for them to dwell.

Vitality in my mind goes back to living. Living isn’t just taking one breath after another. When you have vitality, the people that mean the most in your life can see the color in your eyes and hear the song in your heart. People light up when you enter a space and your smile waves at perfect strangers before you fully exit your car. Rosiness enters your cheeks and nothing short of the creator could stop the glow illuminating from your eyes. Whether walking and beholding my time with the Lord or making time for meaningful andd even tough conversations with loved ones-life has found its way back to my doorsteps.

Connectivity is at the core of our being. It is crucial for us to have real connections with other human beings. Ultimately, no relationship can exist in the absence of a legitimate relationship with your own self. No other human can be to you, what you cannot be for yourself. This six week period has allowed me to look in the mirror and listen closely to what my mind has sold me. My mind sold me short because it was cloudy from a heart burdened by years of hurt. Only now, when I can allow my heart to open up and begin to heal that I can see the barriers I placed in my own way. This comes from the broken records I played in my own mental parties. We all do it. It just takes slowing down and getting connected for us to realize all the prayers, love, and aspirations cannot move us ahead until we discover what limits we place on our dreams through destructive thinking, self-loathing, perfectionism, insecurity, and self-criticism. Yes, it was important for me to realize fully shortcomings that cannot preceed with me to my next level of thriving.

I share my experience on getting real with myself so that I can open up for one reason. Life. We all can improve our quality of life if we are honest with our testimonies and life lessons. I long to discover my faithful future companion, my future long term vision, and travels across the globe. But these opportunities are not possible if I am not willing to release the illusion of ‘control’ and open my hand to be led by the master architect who knows what destinations lie ahead.

Living life out loud on purpose

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