Tag: people

Don’t Talk, Don’t Talk – The Value of Listening

Don’t Talk, Don’t Talk – The Value of Listening

Sometimes I like to just sit in a crowded public place and listen. Listen to the bustle of the crowd; catch snippets of conversation in passing. Listen and watch. You learn a lot about people that way.

I like to sit in a restaurant and watch people. Based on what I see of their body language, notice about their physical presentation, and hear of their conversations, I construct elaborate back stories about their lives in my head. I make my best guess at what they love and fear, how often they smile, and what brought them to this specific moment, where we share a space and a time.

When you act like a sponge; when you pay attention: that’s when you learn the most. While absorbing the actions of strangers in public might be more of a bizarre hobby than a helpful addition to your life, listening to the people you are directly communicating with makes all the difference in the world. I don’t mean listening, like… hearing the words they’re saying an nodding your head while waiting for your turn to speak. Looking like you’re listening doesn’t mean you are listening.

Truly listening to someone who’s sitting in front of you means you don’t talk. You don’t give your opinion, you don’t insert your little quips, you don’t go off on a random tangent related to what they’ve said. You just. Listen. You listen until they stop talking, and then you listen some more. If they stop talking for awhile, you ask a question about what they’ve said to get them talking again. You do this until you have a deeper understanding of who they are as a person.

It’s in our nature to want to be known, and to share, which is why we’re always so quick to want to take hold of a conversation. It’s why so many people feel fulfilled when talking about themselves. Hell, it’s why some of us blog. It’s the willingness to share who we are in the hopes of making a connection. But, if everybody is wanting to talk and nobody wants to listen, any connections made will be entirely superficial.

I work with a lot of incredibly smart people: doctors, nurses, social workers and the like. On my break when I join many of them in the coffee room at work, I love listening to what they have to say. I hear such interesting stories and even learn something every now and then.

When you’re just getting to know somebody, it’s so important to listen. When I have someone new in my life, I want to learn all about them. I want to know what makes them tick, what they love, what makes them smile or laugh, how they see the world and how they see themselves. I love deep connections, and it’s easier to achieve those when you listen.  If you don’t, you’ll end up projecting onto that person who you think they are, or who you want them to be, rather than who they’ve been trying to tell you they are.

Try it. Next time you’re having a conversation with somebody, don’t think about yourself at all. Don’t talk about yourself if you can avoid it. Ask questions to the person you’re conversing with and let them talk. Listen to what they’re saying and pay attention while trying not to subconsciously dismiss them in favor of trying to make yourself known. It just might be one of the best conversations you’ve ever had.

I’ll Place You in a Tiny Pocket in My Heart

I’ll Place You in a Tiny Pocket in My Heart

In life, nothing is ever certain. You could drop dead at any moment, or live to see 100. Life can turn on a dime, and there is often no way to prepare for or alter the direction a path takes. This is never more true than when it comes to the people we walk those paths with.

Whether it’s a friend, a lover, a life partner or even a family member, nobody is permanent. This is something I’ve learned, and re-learned the hard way. All our lives are a series of places, and who we share those places with. The sad fact in all of this is that everyone you love will leave you eventually. Everyone. There might be irreparable damage from an argument or you may cease having anything in common and grow apart. Perhaps they’ll die or you lose touch when one of you moves away. Maybe one of you will hurt the other in a way that can never be forgiven. Perhaps they will leave without ever really saying why.

People come in and out of our lives all the time. Some for 5 minutes and others for 50 years. Logically, I guess it makes sense to keep your heart locked away, so that the pain of loss is never too great. It makes sense to remain cold to those around you so that you never truly get attached to their presence in your life; so it won’t hurt when they inevitably go. Life is so much easier when it’s all a blur, void of detail or familiar faces.  Yet, as hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to live that way for very long.

Turning my heart to stone after Dave died was the easy part: Avoid interaction; reject any advances; make excuses to stay home. Keep people at a distance; keep interactions short (and digital, where possible) and avoid asking or answering too many questions. Soon you’ll have yourself convinced that your heart is bulletproof, and it might stay that way for months and even years. For as many walls as you put up, however, there is someone who is apt to break them down.

When someone comes along with just the right weapons to break through your barricades, it’s terrifying. Terrifying because you’ve forgotten how to react. Terrifying because you realize it’s something you want. Terrifying because if you let yourself hold it, you won’t want to let it go. Terrifying because you know you’ll have to, sooner or later.

I’d rather feel pain after having cared for someone than to feel nothing at all. When someone breaks through the walls I’ve been guarding for so long, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a lover, I will place them into a tiny pocket in my heart. There they will remain for all of my days, and whether they were in my life for a few months or several years, I will look back fondly on the memories we shared and the gift of their company. I no longer carry the romantic delusion of “forever” that a younger me believed in so passionately. It makes it easier to appreciate what you have, when you acknowledge that it could be gone at any minute. A steady hand holding your heart long-term is a beautiful thing in its rarity, but expecting it will likely end in disappointment. Appreciate the people in your life for as long as they’re in your life, know that the experiences you have with them will remain in your memory until your last breath, but never hold on too tightly.