The Art of Listening
Not long ago, I was in a group of people I didn’t particularly care to be with. There! I said it. But there is a moral to this story.
In the past, some of the people in this particular group have made unkind statements about situations they really knew nothing about…mainly where and why we chose to send our children to a particular school, went to church, and the ‘crippled’ condition of our girls. I always went into this crowd defensively, my mind full of ‘vain imaginary responses’ should they say—
At this particular outing, I went with a new attitude. I would not allow myself to ‘go there’…I wasn’t going to prepare a come-back or defend anything. I was going, albeit reluctantly, determined to stay quiet and allow others to have an opinion totally different than my own.
I spent most of the day ‘listening’ to one lady. And I learned so very, very much. Not from what she said, but by actually hearing what she said…and didn’t say. I watched her. I observed her graciously give up the chair she normally sits in to support her back and legs, so that another person in the group could be comfortable. I ‘listened’ as she showed me pictures of her daughter’s wedding, and saw the shine in her eyes with each description. And I witnessed her countenance fall when she asked her husband a question and he was short and dismissive with her.
On the way home, Bob said “She just needs someone to talk to, doesn’t she?”
No, she’s always talked and talked and talked. What she needed is no different than what we all desire—someone to hear beyond what is uttered. I learned words are only part of a conversation.
I’ll not dread the next outing. Next time I will show her pictures of my kids and grandkids, and we’ll smile and exchange ‘momisms’ and hug when we say goodbye.
This time, I ‘saw’ every word—and that matters.