Change Begins With Awareness

A couple of days ago I received an unscheduled call from a client. She was crying and frantic, clearly in crisis. The first few moments were spent just soothing her. Did someone die? I had no idea what happened.

My client began to tell me her story. It was the third day of a 3-day communications and listening workshop that she was attending. During their final day, the attendees role-played confrontation exercises as a culminating activity and each person played the role of confronter, confrontee, and observer.

She did just fine as the confronter, but when it came time to be the one confronted, when she was supposed to respond with acknowledgement and apply her reflective listening skills, she failed miserably. As my client told me, “I completely hijacked the conversation. I made is all about me and just word-vomited instead of listening… I’m exactly like my FATHER!” The crying began again…

I listened as she explained that she felt like a failure and that she did not want to be that way; that she did not think she behaved like that but could not deny it given what she had just experienced and her non-listening behavior in action. She was shocked and ashamed, “I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to be like my father! I want to do better.”

I gave the client a moment to settle on the phone, waiting a beat before responding, and finally said, “Good!”

My client felt that she had failed and that was the first thing addressed. I asked her if she had learned anything from that exercise gone awry and she answered yes. I then asked her what she learned and she responded by telling me that she unconsciously dominates conversations, not truly listening or letting the other person communicate their message. She discovered how she naturally redirects the confrontation back to herself and her issues rather than giving the other person a chance to be heard.

I pointed out to my client that she had not failed, but instead had gained insight to an issue that was not clear to her before. I further explained that she had actually taken the first step towards changing that behavior within herself. She had the awareness that it existed and without being aware of an issue, it is impossible to change it.

Although she felt she had failed, in reality she had taken a great leap towards personal growth by uncovering something that was difficult for her to face. With that new knowledge, she now has the choice to change it or not. You can’t change something that you don’t know or understand, so awareness is always the first step.

With her new understanding, she is now faced with the more challenging task of monitoring herself to constantly recognize when that behavior of non-listening will begin to surface. And when it does, she has the choice to let it take over or not. I told her that it will not always be easy, and in the beginning, she might have to catch herself. Changing that behavior will ultimately take time and practice. But the odds were in her favor as she now had the realization of something that she wished to change within herself.

Have you recently discovered any traits about yourself that you were previously not aware of that you would like to change?

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado


  1. […] his age, he is quite evolved when it comes to having life figured out. The other day he confessed a new awareness of how he judges people without even realizing it and he does not want to be that way. I counseled […]

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