Monday, March 21, 2016

Are You Listening?

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." Steven R Covey.

"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know, but if you listen you may learn something new." Dalai Lama

"The quieter you become the more you can hear." Rumi

"The word listen has the same letters as silent." Alfred Brendel

"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." Bryant H McGill

"So when you are listening to someone, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it." Jiddu Krishnamurti

"When people talk, listen completely, most people never listen." Ernest Hemingway  

Smart people right there. I must say many of these quotes would have never affected me before because I was so busy trying to keep everyone else happy and trying to solve their problems I didn't have the time or the knowhow to realize the truth of these quotes or the know how to apply them.
Then Chronic illness and Hospice happened. After both events my eyes opened to the truth and I began to notice more and more the reality of the fact that people don't listen to what others say. I began to observe people and see how most people want to fix the problem, like me, or the truth that many people turn the issue around and make it about them. I also began to really think deeply about the issue of listening and realized the fact that when someone is not heard they turn off and keep things to themselves. No one wants to talk to a fixer, speaking from experience. I can spot a fixer in a second hence the reason I keep so much to myself.

I saw this truth many times in my life but one very specific time was when I was visiting a Hospice patient who had only days left to live. It was a man who wasn't very old and if he hadn't been struck with whatever illness he was hit with he may have lived another twenty years or longer. I just got done feeding him and we were sitting talking, actually he was talking and I was listening, and a friend of his walked in for a visit. The sad part for me was that after visiting the patient for a few weeks he finally trusted me enough and began to open up. In the weeks before he was very closed mouth and said, "Hi" when I came in, would eat, and say, "Goodbye" when I left and that was it. I respected that, after all he was in charge, at least the way I saw it. I knew this visit was different from the minute I walked in the room. It was almost like he knew his time was getting close because was talking much more. He had been opening up to me when this man walked in. It seemed like he was a friend but maybe not a real close friend. In the minutes before he entered the room the Hospice patient had tears in his eyes as he was talking to me and I remember looking at this man whom weeks before put on his "man" face. You know the one, I'm a man therefore I hide how I really feel, but this visit he was raw. I was so glad he finally had the chance to let it all out and trusted me enough with his pain. In walked said friend and when he walked in I could tell the patient was not happy. I could read his face as he rolled his eyes and let out a little sigh. His body language told me me the visit wasn't welcoming at all. It didn't take long for me to figure out why. In order to get this you have to put yourself in the room we were in. The patient was opening up and visibly upset about his reality, his death. The friend walks in all jolly and he begins by telling a stupid joke that wasn't even funny. He was loud and living life while the hospice patient was dying. Just what the patient didn't need, a big mouth who got to leave him and live. It was the wrong place wrong time kind of feeling. The air was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. The hospice patient looked at me with the tears in his eyes that said ""Dont leave." The visitor rambled on and on and my heart was breaking.  We were both hoping the friend would leave but when he didn't I had to leave to go see other patients. I walked by his room a few times after that to see if Mr Fun had left but he hadn't, he was still talking and not listening.  Unfortunately I never saw this patient after that visit. He died by the next week when I returned. I always hoped and still do that he had another volunteer or social worker or someone whom he trusted enough to open up. He had so much to talk about before his death.  It seemed his friend sure didn't have the skills to just sit and listen. So very sad. A lost opportunity not only for the patient but for me and even for said friend. Once a moment to listen is gone, it's gone. The trust is broken. I remember this patient often and I remember what he taught me. I also remember the feelings and the lesson I learned from the friend which is I never want to be that kind of friend even to a stranger.

It's not easy being a good listener. There's an art to listening and being fully present for someone who in need. You cannot make it about you. Human nature has a funny way of screwing that one up. 
Once you start listening, really listening, and try not to think about what you are going to say next. It gets easier the more you do it. Be in the moment and stay there not only physically but mentally. Care for someone in a true way by just listening. Embrace silent pauses they are okay. When someone is opening up to you they need that silence to process either what they just said or to process what they want to say next. Don't put words in their mouth. I've learned when I say something outloud I learn so much more from it then if I keep it to myself. Writing this blog is the best thing that ever happened to me because it helps me to process so much. Writing things down has the same affect for me as sharing what I'm going through with someone else. Sadly people don't have the skills to really listen and understand anyways so the blog serves that purpose for me. I write and no one tries to change the subject, make it about them, or shut me down with trying to fix what can't be fixed. 

The next time you are in conversation with someone remember nothing says I care about you more  than a listening ear. Don't try to fix the other persons problem just listen. The way you might deal with the same problem is not how someone else would deal with the same problem. Respect that. 

God Bless!



  1. That Stephen Covey quote says a lot.

    1. It sure does. It's the one that has stuck with me for years.