It wasn’t the first time that Steve had been told that he didn’t listen. Across the years he’d been told this by all sorts of people in his life, some more directly than others. He didn’t think it was always justified, as like many people, he listened to what he needed to. The trouble was that most people said a lot that wasn’t necessary, or not to him anyway.
But things had come to a head lately with his youngest son. Tim was the only child still at home, and he seemed to enjoy finding different ways to challenge his parents. Tim loved talking through ideas and different viewpoints, and would often take a contrary point of view just because he could. After a protracted discussion on a topic Steve now struggled to remember, Tim had told him that he still hadn’t mastered the basics of listening. Steve had spluttered in frustration.
‘All you do, Dad, is listen to the first few words of any sentence. Then you’re so busy working out how you’ll respond, that you don’t take in the words that follow.’
‘Well, I heard all of that.’
Tim had given him a crooked grin. ‘That’s a start, then.’
The conversation had moved on to firmer ground, but over the next couple of days, Steve kept circling back to what Tim had said to him. He made a conscious effort to listen, really listen, to what people were saying to him. It wasn’t easy, and often enough he thought that he really wasn’t missing out by not paying full attention to what was being said. But a few times he realised that what people were saying was a bit different to what he’d expected to hear. It was a subtle but significant shift.
He was able to respond in a more meaningful way. His family were the first to pick up on the changes, and there were a few double-takes when his wife and kids said something and he replied with a more considered response than he would have a couple of weeks before. What really surprised him was that people opened up a bit more, in work and social situations, than they had before. And that made him curious to listen more.
When he mentioned these discoveries to Tim, his son smiled back at him. ‘Never to old to learn something new then, Dad.’
He had to agree.
I’m participating in this blogging challenge for the month of January, which supports starting the year on the “write” track. You can find other posts with #bloganuary and join in the challenge.
Photo: Lithgow Listen sculpture installation
2 thoughts on “Bloganuary Day 29: What is something you learned recently?”
Active listening is such a beautiful skill to learn. I often encourage individuals to focus on their breathing when some is talking.This allows them to also focus on the conversation instead of formulating a reply.
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What a great suggestion – I’m going to give that a try. It’s all too easy to shift into what we’re going to say in response mode.
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