It was a beautiful summer day, and all of our kids were playing outside: Anna, Patrick, William, and Judith. It was one of those “in and out” days, hot and humid in the deep south. They were coming in for something to drink on and off all day. In and out. In and out.
Judith, just three at the time, was speaking to me and trying to tell me something that was important to her. While she was speaking, Patrick rushed in, interrupted, and caused her to lose her train of thought.
“He erased me!”she complained, looking for justice. Unfortunately, at that moment, we couldn’t give justice, all we could do was laugh and enjoy her choice of words.
But Judith was expressing something that all of us have experienced. When others listen, we are valued. When we are interrupted, we feel “erased.” We value others when we listen; we erase them when we interrupt.
Humorously, God created men and women so differently that being fluid in this one area is really a challenge for husbands and wives. When I am sharing important things with Keith, I like him to look at me–that helps me to feel that he is listening. I feel that he is taking the time to process my thoughts and feelings; however, for him, it takes extreme patience and discipline. In John Gray’s little book on communication, Mars and Venus in Touch, he discusses how difficult that very process is; and he gives strategies to help couples express understanding for one another.
As we value others by listening, we build relationships. This is true for our spouse and for our children.
It’s so easy to be wrapped up in our own thoughts, our own doings. Even while we pretend to be listening, we are really thinking about what we want to say next. Sometimes we completely miss what another person is trying to express. We miss the other person; and figuratively, we erase them.
An ancient proverb says, “He who answers before he listens is a fool.” Obviously, this is an age old problem. Nothing new; part of human nature.
Let’s value one another by working on our listening.
This week, try this. Really listen to your family members and then say, “Here’s what I hear you saying.” Then tell them what you heard. I think you will see a difference.
St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek . . . to be understood as to understand.”
It seems like a good prayer for us, too.
Thanks for listening.