Wednesday, August 11, 2010
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~Epictetus
My mother used to say that to me often as I was growing up.
I don't think I really listened much, however. Many of us don't.
We tend to want to tune out instead. We place ear buds in our ears, look at tiny screens and play games or read the news. We think about what we are going to say next when we are talking to someone face to face. We hardly listen at all.
Oh, sure. We think we listen. We email friends, text them, call them briefly on our cellphone.
But it seems to me that the more ways we have to communicate, the less we really listen. The less we really tune in.
It is interesting, isn't it.
When was the last time you just stopped and listened to the sounds around you? When was the last time time you sat silent as you listened to your child tell you about their day? Or listened to a friend tell you about a hard time they are having without a million things you should be doing instead going through your head?
How many times have you taken the time to really just tune in?
We practice tuning out way too much. We need to start practicing tuning in. We are all missing so much.
I can remember having to sit at my aunt or uncle's home when I was young and being forced to listen to the conversations that they and my parents would have. I thought it was so boring. Of course we had to sit there. It was the polite thing to do and besides, there wasn't much else going on. Three channels on TV, no ipods, no computer, no phones. Except one that had a rotary dial. Boring indeed.
But I learned a lot. About them. About life. I heard their tales of woe and of happiness and I knew them better for having heard them. I was part of the conversation. I knew their laugh. I knew when they were having a bad day just by the tone of their voice. And looking back, it was a very good thing.
Now, when I visit my niece or nephew, they may sit there as well, but they are tuned out. Either listening to their ipod, texting a friend or playing a video game.
I wonder if they will even really know me or my husband.
Or anyone else for that matter.
I visit a lot of homes where there are adult children reminiscing about their childhood. There may be a parent who is dying or a grandparent. The one thing I hear over and over is how they wish they had spent more time with them. How they wish they had taken the time to hear more stories, to have more laughs. To just hang out. They may mention wishing for more "quality time," but I think what they are alluding to is listening time.
Tuning in time.
Sure, we can spend hours with someone. But if we are not tuned into them, really listening, do we ever really know them? Do we really know what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what makes them tick? And how may people are so turned off by not being listened to, that they just simply stop trying. They shut down. They are there in person only.
We are missing so much.
So, practice tuning in. And we have to practice in this day and age with so many distractions constantly beckoning us. Practice by first shutting down the TV, the computer, the cellphone, the blackberry. You can't really "talk" on a computer and texting is not the same as listening, not really. Take out the ear buds. And then sit and just listen. Take in the life around you.
You may be surprised by what you hear.
My wife says I never listen to her. At least I think that's what she said.
Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.
“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?”