Friday, February 1, 2008

Lucy Doesn't Listen

Lucy Doesn’t Listen

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 We manage to have dinner about every month or so. It is always such a pleasure to talk about our very different lives, her family, her  car, her mother-in-law, her dog, my recent ---, her advice, her taxes, etc.

 I love her, of course. Still, I drove home with an ache in my heart, making peace with our one-sided chat.

 As I roam  the back roads of aging, I want to spend more time with the listeners and less time with the interrupters. I really do. And, I am not seeking to educate them, one at a time. I want to discover the listeners, one at a time. I want to find the listeners.

 I accept those who don’t know how to listen. I just … smile, and we move on to the topics they present. There is nothing else to do. I  will meet Lucy next month and we will love seeing each other; and I will know, going into the restaurant, that I must do so without expectations … just … enjoy her, us.

 I know she loves the “listener” part of me. She calls it my “smile” … but, it is my silence, my listening/loving she appreciates. She just doesn’t recognize that.

 Listening is hard. I didn’t know how to do it, until I was trained to do it, as a volunteer taking phone calls on a suicide/crisis hot line. I am ever grateful for it.

Here’s a mini-test: While you read the paragraphs, above … did you “interrupt” me with your words/thoughts, “Well, you could/should tell her you need to finish what you’re  saying.” Sigh …J

 See, we just don’t know how to listen.

 I don’t have a manual in front of me and I hesitate to tell you something that isn’t “by the book” … but, here are some nuggets of advice that might come in handy, sometime, when your friend just needs a good listener:

 • When someone starts telling you something, just listen. Smile, nod, say, “Hmmm” or “Uh huh” or any other  short comment that assures him/her that you are attending to the words.

 • Your mind cannot hold two thoughts at the same time, so choose to listen to your friend, not to your interior mind-chatter. Focus on his/her words, face, eyes, voice, etc. This is harder than you think. Most of us never do it right. Practice. Try it out on the next phone call you get from a friend or family member. Just … listen.

 • Do not change the subject from your friend’s topic to your topic, your thoughts, your advice, gripes, commiseration, solution, etc. This is so difficult because we are not trained to listen. We think we are being a good friend/mother/sister when we give advice, so we rush to tell our friend how we would handle the situation, or how a similar experience affected us, or what advice someone gave us that worked or didn’t work.

 Being listened to, really having been heard,  for as long as it takes to say it all, is the most peaceful feeling in the world!  When you have been heard … whether or not you solve a  problem … your energy is better, your heart is lighter, a quiet power fills your soul.

 I want more listeners in my life And, I wish that for you – more people in your life who, truly, listen. What a gift of love.

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