Putting the “H” in Hear:
I had to fly out of town over the weekend. And as I sat in a supple leather chair amidst the shiny marble floor and chandelier-ladened hotel lobby, I got to witness a most primordial and profound interaction.
A daughter and son had evidently come into town to meet their mother for a special occasion. The mother pulled up to the front of the hotel in her car, got out, and met the two children in the lobby. The son scooped the mother into a big hug, and the daughter gave her a side-hug, seemingly aware of the clock, and the fact that they had somewhere to be. The mother pulled back from the daughter, and said, “I really wish you hadn’t worn that tonight.” She then turned around and walked back out to her car.
The daughter, visibly crushed and angry, turned to her brother and proceeded to say, “You know what? I can’t do this. I cannot take her judgement anymore. Not tonight.” Then she turned on her heel, walked back to the elevator, and got in. The doors closed.
At which point the mother returned from her car, holding a giant, beautifully wrapped present, bewildered and a bit annoyed at her daughter’s ‘sudden’ absence. “Where’d your sister go?” The son gave her a disappointed look. She cocked her head, saying, “don’t tell her, but I got her the dress that she had loved last time that you guys were here. But she looked so beautiful tonight, I didn’t want her to feel like she had to change into it on my account. I just couldn’t keep it a secret anymore!”
The son exhaled loudly. “Oh boy…” He wrapped his arm around his mother’s shoulders and guided her to the elevator. “We’ve got some triage to do.”
That was it. The whole exchange took less than five minutes. And yet, five minutes was more than enough time for the daughter to come into the lobby carrying her entire childhood on her back. A lifetime of insecurity, fear and suspicion that her mother did not approve of her; a deep, intrinsic human desire to belong, to connect, to feel seen and accepted. A lifetime of expectation, just waiting to be proven right.
If we really take a look at the inside of each of our basic, primal brains, we will find that there are profoundly universal elements of being human within. Elements that have been thousands of years in the making, and which sneak out of our mouths and into our behavior before we realize. Like the desire to belong, the need to connect, the need to feel safe, to be recognized, and considered, to be fully seen, to be wholly heard. To know that we have a voice in whatever we choose to join or participate in—be it a simple conversation, a group, team or club, a family, or a political campaign.
It struck me so deeply that we all just want to be counted, recognized as taking up vital, valuable, beautiful space. What if we knew this about ourselves, and we spoke to our primal brain when feelings of fight or flight come up? What if we took a moment to get in touch with our inner selves to identify which basic need we feel is being ignored or denied? What if we identified it, and shared it with the other person? What if the daughter—in that moment after the mother seemingly insulted her very taste and ability to present herself—what if she took a moment to say, “Mom, when you say that, it feels like you don’t approve of me, it hurts, like you’re not proud of me, is that what you mean?” Imagine if she offered her mother the opportunity to really communicate all that she wanted to.
Or better yet, what if we identified the basic need of ours that was being denied, and soothed it ourselves, without relying on another person to reassure us, and know, that we are enough? That we are valuable, and capable, and worthy of everything that we desire, simply because we are here having this life experience. What if the daughter had taken into account her mother’s inability to recognize how her words sounded—and what if she had waited just a beat until her mother returned from the car before jumping to conclusions that were decades old?
What if, in understanding ourselves, we could then walk into every conversation, every group, club, team, family, every political or religious discussion with the knowledge that everyone is just trying to get a basic need met? And the desperate desire to get their needs soothed, is the real reason that they can say and do things that drive us crazy. What if we opened ourselves to the knowledge that everyone has a story—a powerful, impacting story that has shaped their belief, their behavior, their life? What if we came into every conversation open, and willing to hear, not just with our ears, but with our hearts…?
The whole exchange that I witnessed over the weekend took less than five minutes. And yet, it left me simply, and forever, changed. What if we used our “Heart” and our “ear” to really Hear…?
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]