I think my second son is absolutely hilarious. On more than one occasion I’ve been in my kitchen chuckling at something I heard him say in another room. This nugget not so long ago: his little sister needed some clothes washed (that’s his job) and he’d been derelict thanks to his baseball schedule. So she shouted from her room, “Hey! Do the laundry! I’m dyin’ over here!” Instead of getting mad, which is not his style, he throws out a “What? I can’t hear you; it’s dark in here!” How can you get mad at that? It’s so funny!!! Beside being great for his ego and my mood, it gives me food for thought.
I’ve written about listening before since it’s a favorite topic of my husband and me. Recently we were at a meeting where, among other things, we were encouraged to do considerably more listening than talking. Someone later said, “Did we really need that? Shouldn’t we be doing that already?” That amused me, too, because the very fact that we DON’T listen well warrants the need to have such presentations.
Because this hits my radar so frequently, I can tell you unequivocally that we humans are terrible listeners. Not just poor or we-could-do- better, but terrible. I’ll be at the whiteboard giving step by step instructions slowly when a student will look up and say, “What are we doing?” When I tell them I JUST said what they needed to know, they’ll weakly say they were writing their name on their paper…and add somewhat defensively that they can’t do both at the same time. To which I’ll counter, you can’t listen and write your name? Nope. Wow, so you won’t be having music on when you drive? Of course they will. But that’s two activities at once.
Think where we’d be if we couldn’t do two things at once. I get the whole mulit-tasking isn’t really accomplishing two things, it’s one, but we CAN listen for cars when we’re jogging, CAN hear the baby crying in the back of church while we’re listening to the sermon, we CAN hear the timer go off when putting in laundry.
But beyond the annoyance of someone who isn’t listening to you when you’re literally standing 3 ft away from them, how about the sadness of those who don’t listen to the more important things in life? At that presentation, we saw a demonstration of what it’s like to be a good listener. The demonstrator drew out a story and asked very intuitive questions. Not just the expected banalities that bore us all. Glennon Melton recently said that “Questions are gifts. It’s the thought behind them the receiver feels.” And she’s exactly right. When you’re blown off or you share something and a friend never asks about it again, it doesn’t feel good. It’s more than being self-centered; it’s wanting others to care about you and to show it by listening.
Glennon also said, “If we really want to know people, we need to ask questions that convey ‘I’m not just checking the box here. I really care what you have to say and how you feel.'” I recently worked with someone who literally never asked me one question about myself. Didn’t know I had kids, volunteer, went away for a week…never asked. She’s motivated me, though. Someone I’ll see soon just started a new job, I’m going to ask what her favorite part of it is so far. Another woman is going to be a grandma again. I’d like to see the ultrasounds and share her joy.
This is not hard work! Make it your goal today to ask someone something deeper than ‘how was your day?’ Verbal grease works for many situations, but if you really want to show you care, don’t claim you can’t hear them just because it’s dark 🙂