Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I Would Rather Talk

Today I got to practice listening. And let me tell you that for sure I would rather talk. About myself.


Last night The Quiet Husband and I went to the same New Year's Eve party at the same house with the same friends that we have gone to for years and years. It's usually comfortable and relaxing and fun, but last night it soured for me almost immediately. No sooner had I walked in the door than one of our group, a woman to whom I am not particularly close, made a humorous remark to me which almost ~ but not quite ~ disguised the criticism that lay under the surface ~ as she had at her own Christmas Eve party a week earlier, and as she had at at another event we all attended a couple of months ago. (OK, I might have asked for that last one.) This particular holiday season has been a rough one for TQH and me, and the consequence of her veiled barb was an immediate sense of overwhelming exhaustion on my part. We left the party at 1:00, at least an hour before anyone else, pleading sleepiness and too much holiday activity.

I have my suspicions about why this particular woman is irritated by my presence these days. And I wanted to express myself on the topic, so I called another friend, and began with, "What's up with So-and-So?" Now mind you, I didn't really care what was up with her. I just wanted to whine about being misunderstood and verbally undermined and not being loved and adored in general.

But my friend didn't pick up on my neediness, and launched into a long and sad tale pertaining to the work- and adult child-related travails of the woman in question. And, no, I'm not being sarcastic when I reference the long and sad tale of travails -- she really is dealing with a stack of challenges, all with long-term implications and some unlikely to be resolved, not in this lifetime anyway.

I wasn't really listening all that well. The story got to be so long that I started checking emails. But I listened well enough to understand that her digs at me aren't really about me at all. I listened well enough to understand that my feeling sorry for myself was vastly out of proportion to the remarks made to me. And I listened well enough to have some idea of how I might express some empathy, should an appropriate occasion ever arise.


Most importantly, not once during the conversation did I succumb to the intense desire to explain why I had asked about her at all. I just listened and stored up information that will enable me to be more generous in the future.

So . . . listening? About putting a lid on self-centeredness and noticing what others are experiencing.

SO counterintuitive for me!

11 comments:

LawAndGospel said...

Happy New Year, and like you, I did more than the usual amount of listening this holiday season. From family on both sides, and friends and acquaintances. Like you, I would rather talk, but in the listening, I heard things I would not have. I heard things more interesting, or important than what I thought was interesting or important. And I heard stuff that was not that. Although I do not make New Years Resolutions, I too have been focusing on listening, and I hope all is well with your family.

Lisa :-] said...

What a great exercise for you! I think you've made a good start on your "resolution" for 2008.

emmapeelDallas said...

What a great post! All of us have done this...taken offense where no offense (or certainly, little offense) was intended...thanks for the reminder that all of us need to put a lid on self-centeredness...

Judi

Mark Smith said...

Be careful.

Suppressing your needs will ultimately result in either an explosion or some form of mental illness.

I've been there.

You get to talk, too.

more cows than people said...

yeah, it is hard, but... glad you're working on it.

you inspire me to do the same.

Jodie said...

How about

"Interactive" Listening?

;-)

RevDrKate said...

I love this post, gg! It so parallels what just happened with someone in my life...and you expressed it so well. As my SD has reminded me a time or two with much love in these situations...."chances are it's not personal." And I keep forgetting to remember that...or to maybe "listen" to another message inside the spoken one. Excellent start on the listening I'd say.

mompriest said...

Listening well is an art that we hone with intentionality and practice...it may be a "natural" gift for some, but not for a lot of us....sigh...good reflection GG...and good reminder, too!

Jan said...

Thank you for writing so expressively about your feelings, conversations, before and after the talk with you other friend. You certainly illustrate how important it is to listen. Also, for me, to remember I am NOT the center of things. . . .if I listen outward and not just inwardly, maybe I'll start to learn that better.

Wayne Stratz said...

I let this sit for a day, but I still think that folk have no right to be rude, not knowing the comments I may be wrong. If I am rude to someone because I am upset about something else, I am the one who needs to apologize...

it was good to listen to hear how the other's life is in a bad place and to feel compassion... but I don't see a need to apologize for being upset if she had been rude.

as always.. these are my thoughts.

Carol said...

Thanks for this great post, GG. I so need to learn to listen more and talk less. I'm reminded of one of my grandfather's favorite expressions, "If God had wanted us to talk more he'd have given us 2 mouths and only 1 ear."