As someone a long time ago once said, We have 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. (According to Goodreads.com, Greek philosopher Epictetus said it about two-thousand years ago.)
2 ears, 1 mouth. Listen better. Sure. Sounds good.
Makes sense, even, but I’m afraid it’s not working out that way. Not for me, anyway.
I used to think I was a pretty good listener and included listening as one of my strenghts. I’m not sure what happened to my listening skills.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean.
This is an actual conversation I’ve had with my husband:
Me: How was your day?
Mark: It was good. Busy, but good.
5 minutes later
Me: How was your day?
Mark: You just asked me that.
Me: (deer in headlights look) I did?
Me: What did you say?
Mark: (Long pause) It was fine.
Whoa. That’s pretty crappy. The problem was not that I forgot what he’d said.
No, the problem was I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t fully present even as I stood right there with him?
Why not? Was I asking a question because I felt the need to speak, to fill the silent space? I don’t know.
But I know I can do better. I want to do better.
The thing is I believe listening is one of the most fundatmental ways of showing love. It’s pretty basic really.
When we truly listen to another person, we’re fully present, body and mind, engaged in what that person is saying.
But why is it so hard to do sometimes?
There are many possible reasons.
- thinking about something that happened earlier
- formulating a response to what is being said
- wondering when this person will stop talking
- dying to check our weather app
- itching to check new posts on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
When petty stuff distracts me so much that I can’t listen well to someone I love, that’s a problem.
And it’s not just hearing their words that’s important. It’s giving them my full attention. Listening, yes, but also seeing, feeling, and being completely present in the moments that make up my life.
I realize, for example, how quick I am to pull out my phone or think about pulling it out for no good reason. Major distraction.
The other day, I held my 2-month old granddaughter in my arms while she slept. It was just us and the house was quiet, except for the faint squeak of the rocking chair I sat in.
I thought, Hey, there are tons of movies I’ve been wanting to watch. Maybe I can watch a movie. Or maybe I can listen to an audiobook.
But because I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of “listening” and what it means to listen and be fully present, I stopped myself, didn’t pick up my phone or turn on the TV.
It was so quiet.
I just sat there and listened. To the quiet, to her breath, to her sigh. And the listening caused me to feel her more, her presence, the weight of her in my arms.
In that moment, I found myself overcome with immense gratitude for the amazing miracle I held in my arms. I prayed for angels to watch over her and for her protection, now and always.
No movie or book could ever compare to the magnitude of that moment for me. I’ll always remember it as a gift, made possible by the power of listening.
I know this to be true. And you know what? As wonderful and awesome as it was, I still struggle. It’s still hard for me to listen.
This is something I have to practice every day, for myself as much as for anyone else.
Listening is an act of love. It connects us to the world, life, people, our surroundings. The Universe has something to say and if we don’t listen we could miss it forever.
Do you struggle to listen? What keeps you from being a better listener? I’d love to hear from you in the comments : )
Read more about listening (to yourself) on this post: Discover the value of your intuition