Is listening an act of love?
That was the question posed in The Daily Q, a site I use occasionally for writing prompts. Listening has been on my mind over the last week or so after having some wonderful conversations with a friend. In my listening, I gave him a safe space to ‘be heard’–which means that I listened, without judgment, without injecting my own thoughts or interrupting him. I listened.
Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that we want to share with someone but can’t. Or don’t. We think no one whats to hear our stories, or we can’t find that right moment in which to share. The conversation, on a rare sunny morning on my patio, was simple. Childhood memories, an older sister who teased and taunted. Little stuff that allowed me to see a side of someone I hadn’t previously experienced.
Listening is an act of love and a gift we give both to the person speaking and to ourselves. If we listen out of love then we automatically become receptive to whatever the other person needs to share. And often that sharing becomes a gift to us if we understand we’ve been entrusted with something precious. It requires trust and comfort. Will I be heard? Will they laugh or ignore what I have to share? Will they interrupt and try to fix it? Find a solution, diminish the weight of my feelings?
Yesterday as I walked into the gym I saw a woman, I presume the mother, sitting cross-legged with her infant nestled in her crossed legs. The infant was old enough to hold a bottle and was feeding his/herself. She was looking at her smart phone. That image stayed with me. There was connection, skin contact, but she was passing up a moment of tenderness–in my opinion. I can’t really judge as I’m pretty attached to my ‘devices’.
I worry about what all this technology is doing to our ability to listen. Our ability, or willingness, to really be present to those around us. Head down, focused on a small screen we miss the larger world. We miss out on the moment of connection–the eye contact of a baby. The look on a face that says as much as the words do. No amount of texting can take the place of a voice–whether it’s on the phone or those precious times when we are with the people we care about.
I text with my granddaughters sometimes and we occasionally do Facetime. Those are ways we stay in touch when I can’t get in the car to drive the three hours for a real visit. Those are the times when our devices come in handy. I currently have 2 iPads, an iPhone and a laptop–I’m not bashing technology. I am bemoaning the lost opportunities for meaningful contact where we can be in someone’s presence and share life experiences.
How are your listening skills? When was the last time you tuned out all of life’s distractions and really listened to what someone had to say? No phones, no thinking about what you need to do next. No thoughts about what the person is saying–just two people. One opening up and the other receiving. It’s a gift. Listening is an act of love. And when it’s gone you can’t really get it back.
You might enjoy this article I wrote a while back about Listening Skills: A Tool for Relationships.