The Confessions Of an Uncommonly Poor Listener

“It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of super sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”– Erma Bombeck

Meditations in Motion

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.

Meditations in MotionWe 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.

Starting today.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

103 comments

  1. Wonderfully stated, Laurie. I have had the same habit of not listening well because I was too busy listening to the thoughts in my head. I have worked on doing better, but still fall short. As for the social media conversations, I try to listen, but it’s difficult when I read the anger and hate from someone who thinks they’re perfectly right in opinion and beliefs. I will respond to thoughtful conversation and consider what the person is going through, but that tends not to happen often.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep, Laurie, you sure convicted me here! When I’m enthralled in writing, Danny may speak to me, but I always have to ask him to repeat it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I’ve never been a multi-tasker, and tend to focus relentlessly at the activity in which I’m engaged. We all need to be heard, and we all need to listen. Why else would we blog? Praying that we should follow James’ advice.
    Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yep, I do find a lot of people donโ€™t listen in general. Everyone has their opinions and is planning their response even before someone finishes talking. We are also not really taught how to listen. We judge. We jump to conclusions. We are self-involved. Iโ€™m no saint by any means but I listen as part of my job and that can be quite emotionally draining. I remember when I was in relationships, it would be hard to focus on their needs as a result of being so drained. I can still do it with friends and partners but there is a limit when it comes to emotional stuff to listen to. As for debates and different points of view, Iโ€™ve been learning to be better in the last few years but itโ€™s still a work in progress

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When someone asks me a question, I need to fully form a reply in my head before I start talking, Sometimes I’ll cycle through a few responses until I find the right one. Sort of like a computer in the seventies. People inevitably think I’m not listening to them… or they think I had a seizure. It drive some of my closest family members nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good call!
    I am embarrassed to say that I caught myself recently thinking, “I don’t need to follow thus narrative, ” as I listened to a friend on the phone. Laziness in relationships is NOT something I am proud of.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’ve hit on my dirty little secret. Just lately I’ve been aware of conversations I’m missing because I’m trying to juggle day job work (from home), committee work, writing work and the occasional blog. And I know I’m not being fully present for my family even when I am available. Must. Do. Better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh can I relate to this! I don’t listen. So much to do, I think in my mind. I don’t have time for this, I also think in my mind. So I just bulldoze my way onwards ‘getting things done’. But I’m trying to change now. To stop, pause and LISTEN!

    SSG xxx

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  8. I’ll join you in the confession dept Laurie – I listen to speak (which is terrible) and I listen to fix (which is also a problem) and I zone out if the conversation is dragging on. It’s such a selfish way to be – and I hate it when it’s done to me, but realizing we’re doing it is a step in the right direction. My husband is an excellent listener and a considered speaker – I’ve been trying to be more like him in both departments – definitely a work in progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoyed your post…and how right you are..if only we could slow down and take the time to really listen, we might just hear what is not said with words and really get to know the other person.๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ•Š๐Ÿ’™ blessings.
    Zoey

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I also find this hard sometimes. I often find myself in the exact same situation as you, where I’m doing something and then someone starts talking to me. It takes me a while to really focus on the conversation. A great reminder for us to do better at this.
    #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m like you, Laurie. I get caught up reading or writing and my husband rarely gets my full attention. I try to do better in the evening by pulling away from the work in my day. But I’m truly a workaholic! Thanks for this gentle nudge in the right direction! It can mean so much to our spouses, families and friends. That is, whenever we get to see them again! Lol! Tweeting!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think most people are like this, Laurie, and realising it is such a huge thing … or am I just formulating my own thoughts rather than fulling taking in what you have just said!!! Oh oh. Can of worms time. #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I think you are right, Enda – we are all like this. And I am going to assume you gave your full attention to reading my post. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  13. Oh my gosh, Laurie! I’d totally forgotten, but for two years I wrote TLLM on my hand: Talk Less, Listen More! Man, it’s hard. What a good reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Being an introvert I’ve always been a good listener, which is why I’ll have nothing to do with FB. I know people there jump to conclusions, many assuming they know the truth about everything. As if. I lean on โ€œDo not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.โ€ Been thinking about that more often as this pandemic continues.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. We live in an age are distraction is all too easy because of the plethora of things vying for our limited attention. As women, thereโ€™s a culture of pride in being able to multi-task, but Iโ€™ve found that when I combine listening with any other task, my listening suffers first and most. Iโ€™ll think Iโ€™m still listening to my husband while trying to check my phoneโ€™s last beep or trying to calm our baby, but I often miss the heart of what heโ€™s trying to share. Iโ€™ve been convicted of this often and am trying to slow down and single-task more often (when possible) when we are having a conversation so that he feels honored, heard, and his opinions respected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, so true. We are supposed to be able to multi-task. I find that when I do that, nothing gets the attention it deserves and I wind up doing many things poorly. We are aware of the problem with listening and we will get better! Works in progress. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  16. I struggle with elements of this as well. While I rarely ever need people to repeat themselves I am guilty of cutting them off and have tried to improve upon that. I think it stems from 2 things for me. 1 – I, too, hate silence during conversation and find it incredibly awkward. I feel like if I don’t respond quickly the person will think they’re boring me. 2 – For several years I had my first boyfriend and a few other close friends who conversed the way that I did. That is to say we were quick talkers and could convo jump through many things while cycling back to the first thing and even if we were interrupted (as was the case at work) we could pick the convo right back up where it left off. I loved conversing this way, but have found the vast majority of people don’t talk that way and I think it’s caused me to struggle with learning to listen longer and allow for longer pauses before responding. One step at a time I suppose!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, Tracy. One step at a time. I guess now that I’m talking almost exclusively (in person, at least) to my hubby and we regularly finish each others’ sentences, I get used to that type of conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Yes, truly listening with our full attention is not only a skill but an act of love & kindness, as everyone needs to be heard & validated by the simple (but often not) art of listening.
    Bless you,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

  18. If we’re honest, most of us don’t listen as well as we could. It’s difficult, but it’s such an act of love when we give it. I appreciate when someone really listens to me. I had a breakdown of sorts last Sunday morning, and my husband did such a fantastic job of listening and saying the right words. I gave him a lot of attaboys afterward. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are right, Lisa – most of us could be better listeners. I am so sorry you had a breakdown on Sunday. We are all stressed right now. I hope you are feeling better. So glad your hubby is a good listener.

      Like

  19. I just love this. There is a HUGE difference between hearing and listening, and I think sometimes people can’t separate the two. More and more my husband seems to not be listening, but in his defense, I think he’s very distracted by what’s going on right now. Still, I need to remind myself to put down my phone and look up when someone is talking to me. Otherwise I’m the one just hearing and not listening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right – there is a difference between hearing and listening. I am guilty of looking at my phone when someone talks to me too. Ugh!

      Like

  20. We all do suffer with this affliction. I know I have to not plan my response during a conversation with someone. I should be listening to them and not planning what I will say!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I struggle with your first scenario because when my husband or son are on the computer and look like they are concentrating or knee-deep in something, I either wait or ask if I can talk to them when they get a minute. But if I am on the computer, either of them will come in and plop down and just start talking. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I have to continually remind myself that people are more important than tasks, and that God gave them to me to minister to, and any other ministry is secondary. But I do have to battle my flesh on that one! And also with the thought, “OK, finish up so I can get back to what I am doing.” (Ouch! True confessions here). I do try to listen better at other times–but I shouldn’t compartmentalize and give off vibes that I’ll only listen at certain times.

    I’ve been appalled at the lack of truly listening to others or trying to understand where they are coming from on social media. I do think a lot of that comes from pride.

    We all surely need to do a better job at listening. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a lot of us (especially women) are so task-oriented. w do lose sight of what is really important. We will work on being better listeners together! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Laurie, I suspect most of us spend our entire lifetimes learning how to really listen. I’ve worked at being an intentional listener with my husband and my sons, but in all honesty, I sometimes find it hard to set aside what I’m working on to give them my undivided attention. But, as you’ve shared, listeningโ€”really listeningโ€”is one of the best gifts we can offer to another person. I’ll join you in being more intentional in listening to those in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It sure is difficult not to be distracted these days Laurie. We are assailed by social media, all screaming for us to pay attention to just one more news story or one more audio byte. I want to be paying attention less to those stories, yet have a need to know and I find myself sucked in more and more are dismayed and distracted by what I hear. Since I live alone, work from home and have no family members around, I really have no one telling me I’m not paying attention to them. Walking clears my head, as running does for you – have we got too much in our RAM memory and need to get some memory sticks or just accumulate less info, (good, bad or otherwise) in our respective noggins?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so true, Linda. And social media knows how to get and keep out attention. They know all the tricks and use them against us. We are programmed to become addicted to Twitter, Facebook, etc. I never thought about running/walking cleaning my RAM memory, but you are right. That’s exactly what it does.

      Like

  24. Guilty! I have a tendency to zone out when the conversation drags on. I realize too that I have a habit of interrupting a conversion to say my piece before I forget what I have to say!

    Great post as always, Laurie.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Have you been eavesdropping in our house? My husband says I have my head in my iPhone too much and perhaps he is right. I am more extroverted and need to connect with others! However, in due respect to him, and noticing too I can do better, we each turn to the other when having a conversation and are learning to actively listen. Just to listen. Not to formulate a response. Just be heard.

    Thank you so much for being part of Life This Week by linking up and leaving a comment on my post. It is a great way to share the connection on-line. Next week the optional prompt is 19/51 Special Anniversaries 11.5.2020. I look forward to seeing you there too. Stay safe and well. Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I am more extroverted than my husband too. I miss the social connections more than he does, I believe. Good for you for practicing active listening with your husband. I am trying to do the same. Thank you for hosting. See you next week!

      Like

  26. โ€œEveryone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.โ€
    This sounds like a therapy goal although I’m not sure what kind of therapy, anger management maybe?
    Well, we all do that, and I try to listen too. Just keep trying I guess. I blame it on MTV, ever since then my ability to focus and digest what people are saying seems to have waned, so I guess I’ve not been listening as I should since the 80s.
    But in defense of all of us who aren’t listening as we should, people are boring and not very good communicators and we as a whole watch way too much TV, especially now. So yeah, just keep plugging away and try to do better.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. The scenario with your husband that you started the post with is very familiar to me. I’ll put my hand up as guilty too! I need to, and do try hard, to consciously listen and be patient to zip my lips and say what I wanna say later!

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  28. Starting today, God willing, I will do better. As usual, Laurie, I am always so blessed by your insight and openness. I can relate to needing to switch gears and I’ve often told my daughter she needs to give me a few moments to do that. To switch to listening, to take my eyes away from the screen, put the phone down, and look at her. But it takes real intentionality, purpose, and effort to then really listen with my full brain. Listening is hard work but it is oh, so worth it. When my loved ones are fully listened to, they feel seen, heard, understood, loved. I feel it, too. And I would love to share that with others. Praying for God to help me be a better listener, the kind of listener He is to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Many years ago I used to teach in communications. I recall an active listening exercise we did where we have to listen to someone speak and then, before we could reply, we had to summarise what you heard them say. It’s a good exercise to force us to listen properly and also shows how we can misinterpret things and put our own slant on things. It’s certainly not how social media works.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Often we listen with the intent to reply and not for the sake of listening alone. I am guilty as well! Thanks for linking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I can so relate to this. My husband’s common phrases are, “You aren’t listening are you?” And, “If you were listening, what was the last thing I said?” And in high school, my friends used to think it was comical how I could be so focused on what I was doing that they could have a whole conversation about it right next to me without me knowing. As a mom, it’s gotten me into trouble, because the kids know if I’m focused on something, they can ask me almost anything and get an, “okay” without me even realizing they asked a question.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yikes! You even get quizzed on the last thing your hubby said! I would fail for sure. Ha! So funny your kids have found a way to take advantage of your ability to concentrate. Mine would do the same thing. Maybe they did! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  32. Laurie, this strikes a chord deep in my heart: “Think of the blessing it is to have someone really hear us when we speak. Or read and thoughtfully consider what we write.” You’re so right … this is such a gift. (Thank you, by the way, for doing it so well on my blog!) And yet, I find myself right where you’ve been with your husband … answering before someone is done speaking, only half paying attention, trying to solve problems I wasn’t asked to fix. I have much room for improvement, but being a humble listener is my goal too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Oh Laurie, I don’t even know where to begin with this one! This article has really struck a chord with me because I have developed such a complex about not being heard. And it’s probably due to living in a house with children that make a lot of noise, but I find that my husband is getting increasingly worse with his mobile phone too so the whole thing combined makes me feel very often that nobody is listening when I am speaking. But I seem to find it everywhere I go these days, people are definitely not listening to each other anymore. Life has become so fast that we don’t seem to have time to stop anymore. So simple yet so difficult to achieve. It’s something I think we all need to work much harder on. Thank you so much for sharing with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tracey, that is such a problem. I think more and more people could identify with the issue of not being heard. I am trying to improve. I want to be a good listener.

      Like

  34. I’m similar to you, often my husband says I don’t listen to him, but like you I often only hear the end of the sentence, but it irritates me as I always say please start again, now you have my attention, but my husband takes it as I’m not interested. however when I want to ask him something I have to say his name, wait for eye contact then start speaking, he then just leaves a long gap without saying anything until he has formulated his response then it is end of conversation as far as he’s concerned. I think for me to be a better listener, he needs to be a better communicator. Anyway, such is life….Men are from Mars etc. Thank you for linking up with #pocolo and hope to see you back later this week

    Liked by 1 person

  35. So now you’ve got me thinking. The way you describe yourself sounds so much like my husband. You can see that he’s wandered off when other people speak to start formulating his response to the first 30 seconds of their message. He often cuts them off before they’re done and delivers that response. It actually annoys me a lot. Not so much when he does it with me, but when he does it with other people.
    But now you’ve got me thinking, when you say “If you donโ€™t listen to others, they wonโ€™t listen to you. And very few of us are listening.”
    Perhaps I need some of my own self reflection,

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I felt like I was looking in a mirror reading this! It’s hard work to give complete attention in a world of multitasking. I need to do better too.

    Liked by 1 person

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