The Wisdom of Listening

The Wisdom of Listening

Wisdom has two parts:  1) Having a lot to say 2) Not saying it. – Church billboard in Vermont

There are days when I have the gift of gab.  On those days, I am funny.  I am quick with the one-liners.  I am a source of knowledge and understanding.  On those days, I am warm and welcoming.  I put others at ease.  I am refreshingly honest and positively a hoot.  On those days, I’ve just “got it”.

There are also days when I have the curse of gab.  On those days, I am funny… when my friend is trying to be serious.  I am quick with the one-liners…shooting them out there repeatedly – zing…zing…zing – so much so that the person I am speaking with says less and less.  I am so confident in my ability to pass on good, sound advice that I don’t listen to what is being said to me… I just hear the words and offer up several solutions.  Rather than being warm and welcoming, on those days, I am full of commentary and self righteous pats on my own back.  The uneasiness can clearly be felt by everyone but me.  I am bluntly, even brutally honest and positively a harpy.  On those days, I am dishing it out freely regardless of who wants it or not.

I am not the only one afflicted with the gift/curse of gab.  And in our defense, sometimes, we just don’t know when the gift is going to come out or the curse.  Sometimes it’s a bit of both.  It’s our version of Tourette’s Syndrome.

I worry that my children will inherit this trait from me.  Already I can see my son not letting his daddy or I get a word in edgewise (BTW how did “edgewise” become an idiom?? Who came up with it?) and/or answering before he really hears the question.

We want our children to grow up to be good friends and good leaders.  Heck, we want to be good friends and good leaders.  I know that in order to be both, one has to be a good listener.  We have to embrace the wisdom of listening.  When I think of people I consider to be good friends and/or good leaders, I can clearly see that the common trait of all of them is that they have mastered the art of listening – which is completely different than just hearing.  Listening is not only hearing what is said but also what isn’t said.  The wisest leaders and the best of friends know that hearing themselves talk is no way to build trust and goodwill.

When a friend needs to talk, I need to resist the urge to give advice right away and just listen. I need to make sure that I keep the focus on them for as long as they need/want it.  Life is NOT a competition.  No need to see their hurt and raise them a tragedy.  I need to ask questions, and really try to understand the answer….ask questions that encourages them and allows them to express the deeper feelings that might otherwise gets brushed aside.

Listening in my marriage is equally important.  I need to not focus on the letter of the law – that is, hearing the word for word complaint being voiced and pointing out that when he says that I always do whatever the offense is, that the statement is clearly false since I don’t alwaysdo whatever the complaint is so therefore the complaint is null and void due to improper and false wording (point for me).  We both need to be able to speak freely without fear that the other person is about to launch into a fix-it speech, I told you so speech, or probably the worst possibility – yeah-ok-but-you-won’t-believe-what-was-done-to-me/I’ve-been-through-today speech.

Jill Savage of Hearts at Home is often encouraging us moms to be more of a “yes” mom more than a “no mom.   In addition to that, I hope to  develop that leader-like sense of when to open my mouth and when to keep it clamped firmly shut.


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