On The Value of Listening

It's always safe to say, "Would you like some coffee?" That's a good one.

It’s always safe to say, “Would you like some coffee?” That’s a good one.

It’s so important to take time to listen to people. It’s the easy way out to simply talk over them or interrupt, believing our story is more important. It’s not that my story isn’t important. It’s just that maybe it’s your chance to be heard.

It’s a helpless feeling to feel silenced or ignored. It’s a frustrating, demeaning and humiliating finger poking deep inside. It’s the haunting suspicion that nobody cares. It’s the resounding conclusion that we are insignificant.

If you want to be a good friend, listen when words are trying to slip into the conversation like unobtrusive ghosts. Be perceptive enough to notice the awkward silences that don’t make sense. Care enough to focus on the person talking, to pay attention to her body language, to notice whether his eyes meet yours or seem too heavy to do so.

Almost as important, listen to what is left unsaid. Wait for a  pause in the conversation, the slow sigh of frustration that signifies the inability to put feelings into sentences, words, letters. Sometimes the deepest hurts or the unspoken terrors do not make themselves appear in language. It’s in the eyes of the storyteller. It’s in the quick heartbeat that he is sure you can hear too. It’s in the tears that spill out. It’s in the catch of the breath as she tries to restrict a sob.

It’s been said, “When someone shows you who they are you should believe them.” I agree, but want to add this: when someone tries to tell you who they are, listen to them. Don’t fidget or look at your cell phone or walk around looking for something else to do. What’s most important is happening now.

Just listen.

One thought on “On The Value of Listening

  1. Many years ago now I was privileged to work through Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I use the things I learned every day but the one I use the most is this habit: Seek First To Understand. In other words, before you speak, listen to the other person and at least make an effort to understand what they are telling you. As you noted above, sometimes the story is in the persons eyes or actions.

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