This was first published on KSl.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — For the last eight years, I have written a special New Year's article in which I have given you the one resolution that would have the biggest positive impact on your life.
This year is one of the most interesting New Year's days in history, in my opinion, as we are dealing with unprecedented challenges, loss and conflict. We are in worse shape mentally and emotionally than ever before. So, I have been thinking about what we need at this unprecedented time and place. What would help us to start healing the conflicts, lifting the isolation, and restoring the loss? Is there one thing that would make a difference?
What immediately came to my mind was listening. Listening to others more (and talking less) could be life-changing for all of us this year.
What every human being needs this year is to have their experiences, feelings and struggles validated. When I say validated, I don't mean always agreeing with them; rather, the people around us need to know their feelings, beliefs and values matter. This is always the first step to resolving conflict. You must give all parties room to express their feelings and allow them to be right about how they feel.
I have been busy during 2020 working with couples and families who have experienced more conflict at home than ever before. They have been fast to get offended and act too often from a defensive position instead of a loving one. The pandemic has, to some degree, made us all more afraid of other people. This has put us all on guard, watching for slights and being quick to protect ourselves from others.
Has this created or added conflict in your relationships? Are you functioning from a fear-of-loss state, where you feel protective of yourself and see others as a threat — maybe even your spouse and children?
This has been a hard year for everyone. We all need the chance to talk about how 2020 has been for us and share our experiences and feelings, and there are many levels to listening better and they would all serve us greatly. This year, make a goal to listen better in the following ways.
Listen to yourself
Listening to yourself means you start trusting yourself, feeling the feelings that are coming up for you and exploring what they are about, and trusting your gut. You have what I call "an inner GPS" that always knows the right path for you. You are entitled to know where your perfect classroom journey goes next.
The problem comes when you don't trust yourself. You might live in constant fear that you aren't good enough, and this makes you think your thoughts and feelings must be untrustworthy. You might constantly ask others for advice because you trust them more. But they are not entitled to know what's best for you. Practice making decisions and sitting in that choice a while to feel if it is right or wrong. If you are making the wrong choice, your inner GPS will not let it go.
Take time this year to sit with feelings that show up. Ask yourself questions about what they are here for, where they are coming from, and what you're supposed to learn. Process emotions instead of stuffing or avoiding them. Not all your thoughts are accurate, but they are there to help you grow.
Take some quiet time every day this year to check in with yourself: How and what are you feeling? What feels right and wrong to you? Start listening and paying attention to how your inner GPS speaks to you.
Listen to your partner
This important person in your life is the one who needs you to hear them more than anyone else. Yet, few people take the time to ask deep questions and really listen to understand their partner at the deepest level. Too often, we listen only as we prepare what we want to say next. That is not true listening.
Your partner likely has thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns that you know nothing about. These are things they won't share unless you create a space that is safe enough and you earn their trust. Make a goal this year to ask questions, to get to know your partner on a much deeper level, and to truly understand them. This will create richness in the relationship you have never experienced before.
Listen to your children
Do you want your children to feel important and valued and have good self-esteem? Do you want to really know and understand them? Do you want a close safe relationship where they will confide in you? These things are all earned by listening more than you talk. Honestly ask yourself which of those actions your children get from you most.
Be a safe place where your children (no matter their age) can share their truth and be respected, honored, heard and validated. Every person has the right to feel the way they feel and have their unique perspective. You don't have to agree with someone else's feelings, but you should honor and respect their right to have those feelings. Make a goal this year to stop talking and start asking questions (without judgment in them) and really get to know your kids.
Listen to your friends and neighbors
You may think you know your friends and neighbors well, but chances are they still feel unseen in some way. They are, as the saying goes, fighting battles you know nothing about. They are carrying pain they won't share because it's messy and ugly.
These people need someone who cares to ask the hard questions like, "Are you really OK?" and "What's the hardest thing you have gone through this year? What's the worst part?" Then give them the time to really share those things they thought no one would care to hear. These are the things they most need to talk about, and this need usually goes unmet.
There is someone around you that needs this kind of love and validation. Make a goal to look for and see these people.
Listen to people you don't agree with
This is the first step to healing our nation after the conflict and division we've felt recently. It is time to truly listen to the people on the other side of every issue. You don't have to agree with them, but you could honor and respect their right to their perspective and experience.
When others say they feel slighted, it is not our place to disagree. They are always right about how they feel; they see the world from a perspective you can't possibly imagine because you weren't there. Your perspective is always missing some pieces. Always stay open to the possibility of being wrong. This keeps you teachable, open to learning, and able to create solutions that serve your entire community and country, not just you.
People who are different from you
Most of us subconsciously lean toward the people who are the most like us and who have the same beliefs, values, race, religion and socioeconomic status. This can make our world small. It shelters us from conflict, but it also hinders growth, learning and incredible experiences.
If you feel uncomfortable around a certain group, this is the year to make a new friend and spend some time really listening to their story and how they got there. Amazing growth can happen when we truly hear other people and understand their unique experiences. Doing so changes and enriches who you are.
Join me this year to listen better than we ever have before by committing to stay open and assume you don't know it all. Stay teachable. Get to know other people on a whole new level and develop compassion and empathy for people you didn't understand before. Decide to be a giver to the people in your home and be more focused on hearing them and understanding their hearts than ever before. They may irritate you at times, but you probably haven't scratched the surface of knowing the depths of their souls and their goodness. All that is required is for you to ask more questions, talk a lot less and care enough to hear them.
You can do this in 2021.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.