Not everything I do as an attorney translates well into my personal life. When listening to the other side in an arbitration or trial, I am busy trying to figure out how I can prove that they are wrong and that my position is right.
Being a good advocate does not always serve me as a husband. Growing up with a father who was an attorney and owned his own business definitely had its advantages. In 6th grade I worked at my dad’s office and I made enough money to buy my dream bicycle. I delivered papers to the courthouse where I met the judges, their secretaries and bailiffs. Dad’s legal secretaries even helped me with papers for school, did I ever need that help.
But membership is not always filled with advantages. I learned how to argue well. I knew how to make my point the central issue. In law school I remember a professor saying, “The person who defines the issue wins the argument”. While that worked extremely well in my law practice, it had serious downsides in my marriage.
“What I am looking for is what I’m going to find” – whoever said that, saw a simple yet profound truth about life. I ran head on into it in my marriage. Whenever there was a disagreement or misunderstanding, my automatic response was to argue my point. This approach affected what I said and heard.
For a number of years Jan would say in response to whatever my “good defense is a strong offense” comment was, “Stop making this argument all about you. It’s not. I want you to just listen to me”. I honestly tried to believe her, but everything I heard her say told me it was not true. How she put up with me I have no idea. I must have been a real “peach”.
Only through her infinite patience did I finally get it. I knew deep inside that what she was saying had to be true. She is a smart gal. I know she always has my best interest at heart. But my brain just could not comprehend it. I spent a number of years trying to hear what she was saying and not what I heard her say. When I felt my being “right” translator activate I would literally say to my self “she’s not talking about you. Just be quite and listen”. It was ridiculously hard to do.
Then one day while walking down the stairs, a light bulb the size belonging in a lighthouse, went on over my head. It’s not about “being” right, it’s about “seeing” right. It’s not about proving my point, it’s about understanding what she is saying. By George, I think I got it!
I know. I know. You’re thinking….. “Well, duh. It took you that long to figure this out?”. Well, yes it did. All the training I got growing up, in law school and work, ingrained being “right” into my very being. It took a long time to retrain myself.
I would like to tell you that I am perfect at it now, but that would be a lie. I am, however, a lot better. Not only did learning to hear right have a wonderful effect on my marriage, but on all the important relationships in my life. It’s amazing what I hear when I am not listening to be right. The difference between listening to being right and hearing right was life changing for me.