“It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of super sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”– Erma Bombeck
I was sitting in our family room with my laptop one day last week, tapping away at a furious rate. Inspiration for a blog post had come to me and I wanted to take advantage of the moment.
Looking at my screen, I was frowning in concentration when I heard the tail end of a sentence from my husband “…and that’s what I think we should do. What do you think?”
I had to ask him to repeat the sentence.
“You never listen to me,” he complained.
“I do listen to you. I was concentrating on something else and it takes me a few seconds to switch gears,” I replied.
Actually, he’s right.
No, it’s not that I never listen to him. I do. But I tend to get wrapped up in my own little world, shutting everything (and everyone) else out.
I think a lot of us do that.
I am one of those people you read about in self-help articles. I am the example of what not to do. When you and I are in a conversation, I admit, I am not giving you my undivided attention.
Oh, I look like I am paying attention. I am good at making eye contact, nodding my head in agreement with what you’re saying, making sympathetic “Mmmm…hmm,” noises at all the right times, but at least part of my brain is formulating my response while you’re talking.
I hate uncomfortable pauses.
I also sometimes finish your sentences, suggest solutions to your problems, and surreptitiously attempt to discern a hidden agenda in your words when I should simply be listening.
I am sorry. I will do better.
One of the reasons I believe we are not fulfilling the Apostle Paul’s entreaty from 1 Corinthians to be “all baptized into one body” is that we are so sure of ourselves, so entrenched in our positions, so unwilling to listen to others’ points of view.
We post missives on social media designed to achieve the desired rush from righteous indignation we so desire. We find “experts” to support our position, cultivate a chorus of friends whom we can reliably count on for support, then twist our reasoning into ever-more complicated philosophical pretzels defending our staked-out positions at all costs.
Has anyone ever conceded the opposing viewpoint may have some validity in a Facebook discussion? I can’t remember it happening.
This, you realize, is essentially to let the world know, “I’m better than you.”
Here’s the thing: call it karma, name it what-goes-around-comes-around, or quote from Galatians “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” they all point to the same result. If you don’t listen to others, they won’t listen to you.
And very few of us are listening.
Think of the blessing it is to have someone really hear us when we speak. Or read and thoughtfully consider what we write. Human connection is like a deep breath of sweet, clean air, life-sustaining and oh, so necessary.
Most times, we don’t want someone to solve our problems, come up with a witty reply, or even supply the word that may be just off the tip of our tongue.
We just want someone to listen. Humbly, with empathy, and without judgment.
We may want to begin this practice by listening to these words from the Epistle of James: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
That is how I want to participate in conversations. Ears and heart open, mouth closed.
You can find the places I link up here.