Thursday, August 21, 2008

hearing right

I've been trying to become a better listener.

I read in a book recently that to listen to someone fully and attentively is to give the other person one of the most precious gifts in the world. Reading those words struck a chord. I thought yes. Oh yes.

My closest friends are all incredible listeners. When I have a problem, they focus. They hear me out; they take time to comprehend. They let me express my fears. And this time and kindness that they give to me is of untold value. I believe that without their friendship, I would find life wearying and difficult.

My children seem to talk to me an awful lot, as I suppose all children do. They tell me what they've read, they ask me how to spell words as they write, they ask obscure questions which stump me and secretly frustrate me. Sometimes the flow of endless chatter feels like a tidal wave of words, and I want to shout "STOP! Stop this infernal talking!" Yet at the same time I am delighted that I am still privy to their worries, their queries and their day-to-day stories. And I want to be someone to whom they can speak, knowing that I will give them my full attention whenever possible. I want them to say, when they are grown, that they always knew they could talk to their mum.

At work, I listen to people all day. I hear their problems, I ask questions and hear their answers to my probing. There is a lot of conversing involved. Because a lot of talking occurs, I sometimes kid myself that I'm a brilliant listener. I begin to believe that I am well on the way to winning the inaugural Australian GP Listening Trophy 2008. Then I catch myself wondering what I'll cook for dinner, or I hear myself butt into the patient's story with a premature question, or I ask something my patient has already told me. Occasionally I ask the same question three times. Oh yes sirree, there is plenty of room for improvement here.

I suspect I am even worse at home. After all, I have already, in my delusional mind, won the listening trophy at work, and by the time I've lugged that sucker home, I'm exhausted. Fatty tells me about his footy team's injuries and I make vague 'hmmmm' noises, as if that should suffice. Laura tells me her dream from the previous night blow by blow and I fight desperately to retain enough detail to sound like I was paying attention. Benjamin explains his drawing of underground worms to me at length, and I stare and exclaim at the wonderful squiggly creatures while my mind is figuring out when Laura's jazz ballet fees are due.

So lately I've been trying to pay more attention, and by doing this, to pay more respect - to the people I love, and to the patients who entrust me with their medical care. It's hard work, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

(No-one's awarded me any trophies yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time)


Heidi said...

Oh... listening is a hard one and I feel like everyone is better at than I am.

My boys talk all the time. This summer I thought my ears would really fall off from all the chatter hitting them! I actually found myself telling them to stop for a moment's quiet and then regretting saying it right after.

I wish you peace with this matter... because it is a noble task that you are undertaking to become a better listener. It is not easy to do (taking great stamina at times) nor is it a skill that a person can be perfect at all the time... but this shows how caring and attentive you really are that you are going to put forth effort to try!

Stomper Girl said...

I do agree with you on this; I am alternately (depending on my mood and level of tiredness) charmed and driven insane by my constantly chattering 4 year old, but I keep trying to think ahead to the surly teenage, grunting years and remind myself to savour my compulsive talker while I've got him.

On the other hand, husbands do bore on about some pretty mind-numbing stuff and I do think you would be within your rights to tune out there occasionally. Blimey, you should hear Fixit trying to bore me to death with the minute details of plane repairs. Snore.

Puss-in-Boots said...

I think you're delightfully human, Jelly, like the rest of us. I know exactly where you're coming from. I still remember my daughters chattering on and I'm sure I didn't pay as much attention as I should have.

It's hard work holding down a full time job, especially one as demanding as yours, and being a mum too. You're allowed to drift off occasionally, we all do. But I'm willing to bet your children will always remember you as a mum who had time to listen.

Take heart, Jelly. You're doing ok.

TUFFENUF said...

I think your mind has to work like that, listening to one thing, while thinking about another thing. You are sometimes hard on yourself, Jelly. I find myself drifing off to another subject when my son is telling the plot of some video game. Blogging saves us. We can just hit the "back" button when we are bored with reading a blog and no one is the wiser!!!

fifi said...

I think you are a splendid listener.

I do try, but my newly discovered EXTOSTOSIS is posibly working against it

Remiman said...

Being a good listener rates much higher than being a good orator! Giving the gift of listening is worthy of a trophy. While I may never get the trophy for listening, I'll get a certificate for trying.

shellyC said...

Oh I am way out of the competition for any kind of listening trophy - according to my family.
Though I could be in the running for a trophy for pretending to listen! Not that I would be proud to get that one at all!

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Oh yes...being a good and attentive listener isn't always easy as I also find myself wandering off thinking of something else. I'll never win an award for being a good listener, but I'm like rel, I might get a certificate for trying.

h+b said...

Sorry, could you repeat that ?

I started thinking about me, and lost you somwhere along the way..

freefalling said...

oh - that's what I was going to say H+B!

I reckon listening is over-rated.
A lot of the time it's the unsaid stuff that's important, because I reckon about 80% of what comes out of peoples' mouths is (scuse my French) crep - I include myself in that (very scientific) statistic, in which case don't pay any attention to this last sentence!

meggie said...

To listen well, is really an art. It is so easy to become distracted, especially when you have a family & a lot on your mind.

Mimi said...

Simply put listening is where I fall most short as a parent. I don't listen well enough.


Alipurr said...

i will join you in this fight to stay focused & really listen to the person speaking

it has been quite a challenge for me lately, too

like you some of my best friends are great listeners