“Much silence makes a mighty noise” – African proverb
I always thought I was a good listener. When I was studying to be a child & youth counsellor I was taught listening skills. But the older I get, the more I realize I’m not…always. I’m not good at listening to my body when it says I need to slow down. And I burn cookies because I’m not listening for the timer.
I’m quick to finish others’ sentences (just ask Hubby). I have difficulty maintaining eye contact because the hamster in my brain is still running on the wheel. And I sometimes catch myself scrambling to answer someone’s problems as they are still presenting them.
Even as I was composing this post, I was wiping down the stove top and listening to Little Guy explaining his homework. It wasn’t until I noticed his blank stare that I realized I wasn’t listening. I made the conscious effort to stop what I was doing and give him my undivided attention, but I should have done that in the first place. The world wasn’t going to end just because there remnants of last night’s dinner on the stove top.
I could easily make excuses or blame the other person. Little Guy is a chatterbox and he tires me out. Hubby didn’t pick a time that was good for me to stop what I was doing to listen to his story about work.
No, I’m not always a good listener.
“The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second stage is listening.” – Solomon ibn Gabirol
Listening is an essential part of a conversation. It requires availability. It requires us to put ourselves aside, to no longer be the centre of attention. But listening may also be one of the greatest gifts we can give to another.
Listening can be exhausting and demanding. But think about how we are nourished and how we thrive under the gift of another’s attention. When we feel like someone “gets us”, we feel more comfortable expressing ourselves freely and are more apt to invest ourselves fully in the conversation.
When we focus on the other person, our voices soften and our demeanor changes. We lean in to hear better, and without knowing it, we are communicating with more than our words. We are giving the other our complete attention as a sign of love and respect for them. In fact, David Augsberger wrote that “being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable”.
We are investing in another human being. We are giving them our HEART. Or to put it another way, the “Art of Hear-ing is the Ear of the Heart”. – David Henderson
Last night when Little Guy got home from Awana, I was watching the last 2 minutes of a very important wedding on Downton Abbey, and working on this post. It was already past his bedtime and the expectation is that he head straight upstairs to get ready for bed. But he had “exciting news” to share…so I paused the wedding, put down my laptop and gave him my full attention. His “news” took less than 30 seconds to share before he happily bounded up the stairs…I saw the wedding, I finished this post, and I listened. I’m not always good at it, but I can get better, one conversation at a time.
(Oh, and the big new? Little Guy used the “money” he earned to buy something special for us to share…that was “news” worth hearing!)