The voices are loud. Whose voices? My own. I go over my mistakes, I try to hold my stance. I can hear a friend defending their position. We're at an impasse, disagreement of sorts.
And so it continues, sentences volleyed back and forth. Some sentences are accusatory, some as disguised guilt. On most days, we find it in us to work through conflict, and some days, we allow each other the space to hurt. In the midst of a disagreement, I find myself unable to listen to the other person. My own voice echoes, almost deafeningly loud.
I ask myself why I cannot listen, maybe I am afraid to be 'wrong', to be called out on, to be forced into an admission of my mistake. I fear being taken aback by what I will hear. I also realise that this is allowed, you are allowed to feel threatened, to find it hard to listen.
In an argument, I find myself holding onto what matters to me, trying to protect myself from what might follow. As I let myself listen, I find that the other person might also be trying to do just that. How do we work through conflict when we are listening to ourselves and not the person trying to reach out to us? As neatly packaged as this is, I find myself struggling on days. I hold space, bearing gently the understanding that this argument causes both of us to hurt. When I listen, I learn that my hurting looks starkly different from theirs, and yet it is valid.
I hold close Valerie Kaur's words:
'Deep listening is an act of surrender. We risk being changed by what we hear. Empathy is cognitive and emotional—to inhabit another person’s view of the world is to feel the world with them.
The most critical part of listening is asking what is at stake for the other person. I try to understand what matters to them, not what I think matters.'