The art of listening.

I’m a quiet person. I’ve always been shy and reserved. When I was a kid, I rarely spoke up in class, hardly ever looked the teachers in the eye (I became very familiar with what their shoes looked like, though. I still remember what my pre-school teacher’s shoes looked like) and I remember listening to them tell my mom about how quiet I was during parent/teacher conferences. I think they thought something was wrong with me.

I’m no the only one, though. My little sister was the same way and so is my son. There’s nothing wrong with us. We’re just quiet people. When Ethan was in kindergarten his teachers were concerned that he may have a speech impediment because he was so quiet. They thought maybe he had a learning disability. I assured them that he could speak just fine (he could!) and that once he got to know them better he’d have no problem. I hear this every year.

First, “Ethan is SO quiet. Is he okay?”
Second, “Ethan’s starting to talk now, that’s great!”
Third, “Ethan’s talking during class.”

Mind you, there is a difference between being quiet and listening. I can be very quiet, and you may think I’m listening, but I could be off in Lala Land dreaming about dancing with a handsome prince and worrying about what time it was. This is where dreamers like me struggle. My son has the same problem now, in school. They say, “He
looks like he’s doing his work, but when we check on him, he hasn’t done anything!” and I know exactly what he’s doing. He’s daydreaming.

But listening is a good thing to do. The other day I went to brunch with my grandmother and her two best friends. Grandparents have a way of making you feel ten years old without even trying. And considering I have a nine year old, that can be sort of embarrassing. So, instead of trying to converse with them and trying to discuss my opinion about whatever the topic was… I listened. Normally I would interject. I would add my opinion and always felt like I was trying to be “all grown up”. This time I quietly enjoyed my meal and let them talk. Smiling and nodding occasionally when warranted and laughing here and there. I wasn’t daydreaming. I was paying attention. I was appreciating the time spent just being in my grandmother’s presence. She’s 81 years old and a breast cancer survivor and she doesn’t look a day over 60. Her friends are in their late 80s, the oldest being 89. We have different views on politics and how the world turns, but that doesn’t mean I can’t listen and hopefully learn something from those who have been around to see the world go through so many changes. And so I sat with my son, listening to them talk about how the church used to be run, about the old priests they missed, and about how my grandmother’s voicemailbox worked. It was quite entertaining.

I like listening. 🙂


4 thoughts on “The art of listening.

  1. Vita, I love your blog. I love your thoughts written out like this. So beautiful. And yes, there is a huge difference between being quiet and listening. Whenever anyone starts in on giving me directions, I quiet down, but I rarely listen. My mind is off wondering if polar bears ever feel cold or some such thing and then when they pause, I snap back to the present and thank them and then promptly get lost.

    Because I wasn’t listening.
    I love how you spent time with your grandmother and her two best friends and actually listened. What an inspiring thing to read.

    • Haha! I do the same thing with directions! Except I have never wondered about Polar Bears. I’m sure there are some degrees that are just too cold for them. Especially if it freezes their Coca Cola.

      I’m also terrible at listening during meetings (or in class room settings). I don’t know why. I have to be an *active* listener or its in one ear and out the other.

      Thanks for reading, Jess 🙂

  2. Here the two of you are talking about how you don’t listen to directions, and yet men are the ones who get blamed for not asking for them.

    I am also a pretty quiet person. I wasn’t always like this, though. It happened after moving to FL when I was 6. It just made me very quiet and reserved, especially in new situations. It really pisses me off when people act like being quiet, or being an introvert, is a bad thing. I’m usually a good listener (which is why most of my friends have been girls, who love to tell me EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of their lives), but I’m also a bit ADD so I often zone out in a conversation that I feel is meaningless. Not with the two of you of course. 😉

    I spent the better part of my school years daydreaming. I still do it, far too often. I actually find myself not getting things done because I’m daydreaming. I wish there was a job where the main requirement was to be a good daydreamer, that also offered good health benefits.

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