SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

When Listening is Not on Our Radar

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Blog, Food for Thought, Memories | 1 comment

I’ve come to believe that listening is an art that many have neglected to develop or have no desire to practise. And just so there’s no misunderstanding, there’s no finger pointing here. I’m speaking to myself when I say this because I know who I am and am very aware of my shortcomings.

If you’ve read beyond my blog, you’ll have learned about my Sharing/Caring Speaking Ministry (Sharing My Heart tab). You’ll also have discovered that the title is based on a gas station sign I saw several years ago. It read: Talking is sharing, listening is caring. The thought grabbed me. Six simple words that hold some great advice one can give or receive, and I immediately adopted the title.

There is truth in saying that in order to share, we must talk. There is a time when talking is not only helpful and natural, but necessary. Being able to say, “I’ve been there, I understand” or “Amazing job, well done” breeds understanding, trust, hope and even confidence. Of course, there are those moments when people get together and you almost have to take a number to have your say! Talking and sharing is not a problem, just waiting your turn is!

Sometimes, however—and not to contradict myself—sharing can be done without the sound of our voices. Sharing the beauty of a summer sunset; sharing a walk through a blanket of freshly fallen snow or standing over a sleeping newborn. Just enjoying the moment in silence is all the talking that is needed. And, most definitely, listening to Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune does not require words!

Similarly, our very presence with someone who is struggling is all that is needed. It’s as though just being there erases the need to talk. A hand held, a hug given often constitutes volumes of words.

Now the hard part…listening!

Why do some of us find it so hard to do? Too often we have a pressing need to be heard first, and when that happens, the talking overrides the listening. We are driven by the false belief or the conceited misconception that what we have to say is far more important than the person currently filling the air with—what we may perceive to be—non-essential information. Sometimes we are driven by the need to speak now so we don’t forget the important thing we were going to say, and the urge is so great that we may believe the world will revolve in another direction if we are not heard posthaste! And what about those moments when listening is not even on our radar because what we are hearing is dead wrong and we, after all, have the correct answer!

But listen we must! The question is how.

I remember reading…or being told, can’t remember which…that when in one-on-one conversation, eye contact is critical.

So I thought it would work with our dog, Toby!

In 1986 we bought a puppy, a wire haired fox terrier. Toby, the enchanting puppy soon became Toby, the terror, disobedient, despite schooling. Unless on a leash, he was truly wired; and unfortunately, this led to his early demise. But intelligent and lovable…well, let’s just say if dogs could talk, Toby would have! But he would not listen! I found the only way to get his full attention was to grab him by his jowls and stare him down or repeat a command in the hope that he would get the message.

Obviously, this practice will not work on humans. Case in point…I repeatedly said to my kids in their youth—at those moments when the urge to confine them indefinitely to their dishevelled bedrooms—“I know you hear me, but you’re not listening! Blank stares would follow because they failed to see the difference and it required a further lesson in life: One has ears to hear but one listens with one’s head, and many times with one’s heart. Good thing they didn’t have jowls like Toby!

I have to acknowledge that for some, looking at another person in the eyes can be very difficult; but if a person can overcome the emotional discomfort, there is an advantage. Eye contact eliminates…or should eliminate…the tendency to drift. Have you ever been there? That embarrassing moment when a person you are listening to follows his or her comments with a question and you have been off somewhere else, maybe mentally going over your to-do list, and you haven’t got a clue what has been said? How embarrassing is that!

In the end, common courtesy should rule the day and polite interest is indicated when one focuses one’s eyes on the one speaking. This is saying to the individual, “I am fully engaged in what you are saying.” A must, even if the topic or conversation is borderline boring!

Forgive me if I’m just a little guilty of drama-laced sarcasm! But do you get my point? Listening is a habit that many of us trip up on. We can be so self-focused and often self-absorbed that we fail to hear a need or miss the pleasantries that come when in conversation with another. We fall short in the Love, Respect and Caring Department when we can’t seem to get past the reflection in the mirror.

Caring about one another should be paramount in our daily days. It can be most evident in how we interact with each other…and it begins with listening.

One Comment

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  1. Heather


    We listen, but do we hear beyond the words spoken. Sometimes it takes reflection and years to understand the message that was sent from the heart.

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