Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Listening Heart

One of my friends just started a job.  He was put with another person to assist and be trained.  After his first day, I asked, "So how did it go?"

He replied, "It was great!  It was really nice to be with someone who actually listened to everything I said, and let me talk, and let me ask all the questions I needed to."

Oh.

That left me wondering, how often do I truly listen?  How often do I take the time to stop what I'm doing and really hear what the other person is saying?  How often have I let the other person's talk fade into the background while I wonder about finances or dinner or schedules or whatever else crosses my mind?  How often have I said, whether truly or in jest because I just didn't hear, "I'm sorry; I wasn't listening to you"?

I am ashamed.  I tell people frequently, "I'm here for you.  If you need a listening ear, I'm available.  You can talk to me."  The truth is, yes, I'm available to listen--at the same time as I focus on a hundred other irrelevant things.

Here's a common example of mealtime conversation:
6-year-old:  "Mommy, did you know that Pluto is a dwarf planet?"
Me:  "That's really cool.  Eat your food."

Why?  Why the constant attitude of "Get this task done quickly so we can move on to the next task"?  Yes, sometimes we're in a hurry, especially in the mornings.  Why can't I get up fifteen minutes earlier so we can slow down a little?

The fact is, I can.  I just don't like to.  I like my sleep.  I like to hear my own thoughts instead of focusing my mind on what someone else is saying.  I like to let other people make the effort of conversation.  That attitude, however, is not productive, and if I continue, I will drive people away.  My children.  My husband.  My friends.

The fact that someone who cared enough to listen was the important thing my friend took away from his first day, should tell us all how vital it really is to just pay attention.  It also speaks, unfortunately, to how accustomed he is to not having people listen.

It's time for us to make a change.  It's time for me to make a change.  Put down the phone, the tablet, the book, the puzzle, the laptop, or whatever is keeping you from giving full attention to those around you.  Phones and games have their place; sometimes we do just need to chill and relax.  And honestly, sometimes in public I use my phone as a Do Not Disturb sign.  When we're with the people we care about, though, let's make sure we're actually with them--not on Facebook or buried in a book or playing Dragon City.  (Unless, of course, it's mutually agreed upon to hang out and ignore each other.)  We can do this.  I can do this.  I am determined.