They say we teach what we have to learn, and the part of connection that I’ve always struggled with the most, is the two-way part! It comes very naturally for me to focus on other people, and to learn all about them. But, when the focus is turned on to me and it’s my turn to share, my natural response is to …deflect.
The truth is, I am far more comfortable talking about others than I am talking about myself. All I want to do is shift the focus back to the other person and learn more about them and their life. Sounds nice, right? Generous, considerate, giving….
SPOILER ALERT: IT’S NOT!
This style of communication can be given another name – deflection. Deflection is a defence mechanism that involves directing attention away from yourself, onto others, in an attempt to remain out of the spotlight.
SO WHY DO I (AND MAYBE SOME OF YOU) DEFLECT?
Well, like many things, we learn our patterns of communication in our families. In my family, I was taught to be good, behave and please. (I was also taught to have an opinion…bet they regretted that!) Part of ‘pleasing’ and being ‘good’ is focusing attention on the other person’s needs; what they want and how they feel. Subconsciously, I had learned that the most effective way to communicate with others was to make it all about them. But, I had no idea I was doing it until I met my partner, George.
CURIOSITY, IT’S A DEFLECTOR’S WORSE ENEMY
As George and I started getting to know one another, he naturally asked me questions about myself…and I, naturally, deflected and re-directed the conversation back on to him. Each time George asked me a question about myself, I would respond by asking him another question. Pretty clever, huh? But not clever enough to get by Curious George.
After many failed attempts on his part to get any information out of me whatsoever, he eventually asked me straight up whether I was deliberately avoiding us getting to know each other. Well, that was definitely not my intention, and frankly, I was shocked by his observation! Curious, I asked my closest friends if they too had noticed this behaviour. The response – coupled with hysterical hilarity – was a unanimous yes! All agreed that this was a thing of mine…and they found it highly amusing that I hadn’t realized…
It all blew my mind a bit, to be honest. In my head, I’m just super interested in people, I want to know more about them – people fascinate me, I mean, I built a whole business based on what makes people tick! How could that be a bad thing?!
BECAUSE CONNECTION IS TWO-WAY!
IT TAKES TWO!
Just like the tango – it takes two! If we’re never providing input and only accepting another person’s output, the relationship begins to feel one-sided. One person is being vulnerable and giving, while the other is listening and keeping their cards close to their chest. This type of relationship is great between a doctor and a patient but can feel protective and closed off in any other relationship.
IT’S MUTUAL – I LEARN A BIT ABOUT YOU AND YOU LEARN A BIT ABOUT ME!
It’s about being seen and seeing others! I learn a little something about you and in return, you learn something about me. Put simply, connection at the most basic level requires two people with a desire to connect to be open, honest and vulnerable. When we do this, we mutually invest ourselves in the relationship – we have given and we have taken – we’ve put something on the line.
IT’S ‘GIVE’ AND ‘TAKE’!
Ultimately, it’s about going back to the basics of communication and conversation. Both parties need to speak and listen; with connection, we need to be willing to give a bit of ourselves as well as take some understanding of the other person away.
“Hiding underneath many of our behaviours is a need to be seen, understood and accepted”
As confronting as it was, and after lots of reflection, I realized that I was doing exactly what George had said. I was avoiding really being seen.
If you know me well, that’s going to sound crazy. I can be pretty out there – I love colour, I speak loudly, I dance in the street for goodness sake…! But all of that is the part of me I’m ok with being seen. The truth is, I was hiding in plain sight. Only when we truly connect with ourselves and become confident in sharing ourselves with others can we really connect.
So as your teacher and fellow student, I encourage you to learn from me and with me. Stop deflecting and stop hiding.
Allow yourself to be seen – one little step at a time.