Excuse Me –
Someone asked me today; “Who’s your favorite killer?” I did a double take and asked in return; “My favorite what?” “Color,’ came the response, ‘favorite color?” “Oh!, blue,” I said. I was told I needed to work on my Tennessean listening skills.
It was a good laugh at my expense and a good reminder about listening. Each of us come from a unique background. We often forget that when we are speaking and listening to someone. People speak using words we don’t use, wouldn’t use, aren’t sure how to use. Folks speak with biases, colored by experiences, influenced by generational cycles of positive and negative cultural, religious and familial understandings.
This is why it is so important to listen with our whole being, not casually while we mess with our phones, distract ourselves with “more important” things or not honor the person who is speaking with mindfulness and focus.
Listening is a sacred gift we can give one another.
to Listen –
I have a friend who had a tough conversation earlier this week with one of the leaders at her work. It was a conversation long overdue but oftentimes these are easier to avoid than begin. Part of the challenge is the fact that once a grievance is aired, it can’t be taken back. If the person is caught unawares the conversation can get uncomfortable, quick! Another risk is the recipient might also see this time as an opportunity to unload something they’ve been holding back.
However, this wasn’t my friend’s experience. Her perception of the conversation was that the other wasn’t listening. There wasn’t much feedback or input from the other party. They sat there, injected a few words, and then moved on to another topic before ending the conversation. My friend was frustrated because nothing was solved and the subject will have to be addressed again.
Wisdom teaches us that; “Listening is not agreeing.” Too often, when someone confronts us, challenges our way of thinking, we become aggressive and want to prove to them and our ourselves we are right in our thinking. So, instead of listening while they are talking, understanding and evaluating what they have to say, we are too busy planning what we are going to say next in our minds. We don’t listen and aren’t open to something that might be said which we need to hear. Even if, as we carefully and contemplatively listen, don’t find something we can at least show the other person what they say matters.
Listening is not agreeing but it is allowing the other person to be and have a worldview which might not be ours but is respected because we honor them.
Handle with Care –
Today the Mrs. and I decided to reorganize the kitchen. We wanted to rid ourselves of extra cups, plates, tea brewers, cake molds and more. As a man who is married to a wonderful cook, I knew when we started I was on her turf. As I moved anything breakable a gorgeous pair of blues eyes watched me. There were times when I would bump coffee mugs, Lenox ware, and other fragile items and though I didn’t break them I could feel her cringe every time. We finally finished with what we could do together and she told me she would take care of the few remaining items. I am positive it was her not so subtle way of saying; “You’ve been in my space long enough!” I didn’t argue and told her if she needed me to say something. Not a word was uttered.
Honoring each other’s space is wise. Different people have different spaces but each should be entered and exited with care. I knew a minister who used to have a large personal space. When you’d go to shake his hand he would lock his arm and elbow and not let you get any closer to him. Recognizing that places and spaces are valuable to people allows you to add a layer of respect and makes a way for deeper, more intimate conversation and strong relationships.