The Art of Listening

Sunset conversation

Photo: Les Chatfield

Last weekend my son and I visited our good friends Debbie and John at their beautiful home in Estes Park. After we hauled all of our stuff to their guestroom and let our dog Maddie sniff every inch of their house including their dog Jake, we settled into profound relaxation as we made ourselves right at home. Later that evening after devouring the terrific dinner they had prepared for us, we lingered at the table and talked. I love that time, don’t you? Is there anything better than sipping the last of the wine, talking with good friends, and relishing simple companionship and good conversation?

Debbie started to tell us an interesting story about watching a live show with knights in full armor that rode horses and participated in a jousting match. I wish I could remember where they saw the show, but I can’t. Are you wondering if early Alzheimer’s has already set in? No, my friends, the reason I can’t remember many details about Debbie’s story is because while she was talking, I was only half-listening. I was busy thinking about my reply.

Medieval Times June 2009

Medieval Times - photo by Julia

When Debbie paused, I told her that we, too, had once attended a live jousting match. It was when we were in Anaheim two years ago, when we’d taken that spring break trip to Disneyland. We’d gone to a huge place called Medieval Times, where we had front row seats for the match. And oh, the best part of all was that they served a dinner in which you ate everything with your hands, real medieval-style. Even the soup was served in handled pewter bowls, I explained, so that you could drink it without a spoon! After I had shared every fascinating detail about our live jousting match, we moved on to a new subject.

Later when I thought about our conversation, I was filled with regret over my maddening tendency to be in a hurry to talk – especially when a subject comes up that I CAN CONTRIBUTE TO, or even better, I CAN MAYBE EVEN TOP!

I wish I would have given my dear friend my full attention and really listened to her story. I wish I would have asked her some questions about the match. Why were they there, and who else did they go with? Did everyone enjoy it? Was it interesting to get that glimpse into a centuries-old sport? Did she find it exciting? Did they take pictures?

Once she had taken as much time as she needed to tell me the anecdote in her own way, I wish I’d resisted the urge to share my similar tale. Next time, I hope I can be a better listener.

I want to be a friend who gives others the gift of being truly present.

I want to be someone who listens with my whole heart.

I want to talk less.

I want to hear more.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

21 comments to The Art of Listening

  • If people spent more time really listening to each other rather than focusing on our own actions and thoughts, the world would be a better place. Being truly present in the moment means really listening and absorbing other people’s words whether we choose to formulate a reply or not.

  • Gia

    Listening is one of the best things that we can do for the people when they have their problems…

  • Nikkie

    Listening is definitely very important especially in a relationship…If we know how to listen, we know how to love too…

  • Jake

    My father have a gift (or curse) of talking 24/7 about things no one cares about. Say you dont care – you’ll be a bad person. Don’t say anything – you’ll be a bored to death person.

    There is no escape and that for sure…but you know what ? I learn to listen…yeah i know i was kinda forced too but it just shows how there is a good side of everything…oh…sorry! gotta go – my father wants something…:)

  • Tammie

    Listening is definitely important especially in a relationship whether it is for friendship, family and for the partner…

  • Helga

    I haven’t tried this restaurant and I think people should also know about this…

  • barter411

    Eliza,
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts about listening. I often say I was born with a listening impairment. It’s true. I alienated a good friend once by talking about myself so much. The name for it is “Conversational Narcissism”. Here is a link to an article I found helpful.

  • Rob

    I think we are ALL guilty of that, at least to some degree. But don’t beat yourself up, I think you’re a GREAT listener, and it’s just one of the things we all love about you. Nevertheless, thanks for the reminder… you’re spot on that we can all “learn to give that gift” a little better. Hugs back.

  • “I want to be a friend who gives others the gift of being truly present.
    I want to be someone who listens with my whole heart.
    I want to talk less.
    I want to hear more.”

    This is beautiful.

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa’s Meanderings

  • This is so true! I was just talking about how important it is to listen in business. A client called, and she got on the subject of her dog. Immediately I was thinking what to say about my dogs – but then I stopped, and told myself “no just listen.” It was a gift to me and to the client. The conversation became more relaxed and it felt like there was a more sincere connection. I am conscientiously making the choice to listen. It’s a switch for me – but I like it.
    Thank you for your post. 🙂

    • eliza_cross

      Shirley, thanks for your comment. You make a good point, that letting go of the instinct to jump in is downright relaxing–another benefit of listening.

  • Keira

    Hi Eliza..This is really nice and the photo is even nicer…Oh how I love to visit this restaurant…

  • eliza_cross

    Thanks, Ginny, and I love your blog Humble Alcove! Beautiful photo of the sunrise you just posted. 🙂

  • Ginny

    I think I probably do that more than I should as well. Definitely a bad habit to work on. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  • Janis

    Wow. I can certainly relate to your post. I think I do the same more times than I care to admit. It’s hard to know when you are doing it. It’s much easier to look back and know that you did. I’m working on it too.

    • eliza_cross

      Janis, good luck and thanks for your comment. I went to a dinner last week and tried being very aware of this habit. Instead of automatically jumping into the conversation, I listened and asked questions. I felt good at the end of the night, and I hope I can work on this and develop new habits.

  • eliza_cross

    I bet it was a fun place to have a birthday party. Did your son enjoy it? Did you?

  • The restaurant you were talking about was Medieval Times. My son had his birthday party there years ago.

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