About Listening

Talk, I'm listening...

Talk, I’m listening… by Hani Amir, on Flickr

When was the last time you really listened to someone? That can be a very difficult question to answer.

We all engage in conversation, which necessarily involves listening as well as speaking (unless you are one of those people who dominate the conversation – but then you probably don’t have a lot of conversations anyway). But more often than not, we use that time when the other person is speaking to think up our own clever retort or applicable experience, rather than really, truly listening. However, if we can turn off that need to express ourselves and apply that brain power to listening instead, amazing things can happen.

The other day, I had the incredible privilege of interviewing a lady who has been a volunteer pianist at our local Jewish nursing home for over half a century. I came to her home, handed her a sheet of paper with a few questions (easier for her than trying to hear me ask those questions), turned on the recording app on my iPhone, sat down and listened.

For once, this was a conversation that really wasn’t about me. She told me wonderful stories about her life, about the medical clinic she had managed in her youth, about the music that she loved to bring to the residents of the home, about life in rural Alberta and the apartment she stayed in when she first came to Winnipeg in the late forties. How she came to date her late husband, and how much she misses him.

Her words were eloquent, painting vivid pictures for me that I could just imagine. A life of love, music and the joy of bringing a smile to the face of the depressed and the isolated was revealed to me. All because I took the trouble to sit and listen, absorbing what she had to say rather than looking for my own next smart comment.

I am humbled and grateful to have learned this lesson, and I hope to apply it more in the future. How about you? Have you ever taken the time to sit and truly listen? How did it feel?

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