Does Anyone Really Listen

People don’t listen, they just wait for their turn to talk.

Chuck Palahniuk

That time it became obvious that people don’t

At the dentist, I had settled in for my bi-annual cleaning, right after summer holidays. The hygenist was clicking away at the keyboard. I could hear her but I couldn’t see her because she was behind me. To fill the quiet, while she was reviewing my file, she started a benign conversation.

Hygienist: How was your summer?

Me: Really nice.

Hygienist: That’s nice. Long pause. Did you go to Greece?

Me: Yes.

Hygienist: That’s nice. How long?

Me: Six weeks.

Hygienist: That’s nice. Did you have fun?

Me: Always. I wondered if she was actually hearing my answers.

Hygienist: That’s nice.

Me: Not a betting gal, but I’d put money on “not listening at all”

Hygienist: Did you stay with your grandparents?

Me: Time to test my theory—No, they’re dead.

Hygienist: That’s nice.

Me: OMG she was definitely not listening (at least not fully).

Hygienist: Any other trips planned?

Me: Trying not to laugh—Nope.

Hygienist: Okay let’s take a look in your mouth….she turns in her chair towards me.

This moment actually happened. It was funny and awful all at once. I was grateful she was not my therapist but my hygenist. I found humor in it but it also disappointed me. I’d rather sit in silence than have this experience. This hygienist has since retired and the person who now takes care of my mouth is a lovely person who makes me feel listened to.

Teaching and listening

There’s nothing like a career in education to test the theory of how well people really listen. Sometimes, when I’m delivering a killer lesson and the entire class is engaged, like really engaged (if you’re a teacher you’ll know what I mean)—and everyone is looking at me with not only their eyes but their energy is straight on me, focused completely on what I’m saying, so much so, that I can just feel it laser sharp I feel like I’ve won that moment. It’s like a victory lap kind of feeling. And, in those situations, I have said “Wow, you’re all so focused, I think this would be a great time to move on to something else.” I disrupt the moment because honestly, it happens so little that that kind of listening feels foreign. I do add humor and the kids snicker. More proof of how engaged they were.

I feel like there is this zone of active listening that I can gauge by how many kids don’t know what to do after instructions are given. Let me add that when I give instructions I a) say b) write and c) demonstrate to tap on all my different learners’ styles.

The truth is that we don’t really stretch the listening muscle as much as we used to. Popular social platforms offer videos that are minutes if not seconds long. There are podcasts out there. However, I also wonder how engaged we are when we listen to those podcasts. I am guilty of saying “I can listen to it while I do the dishes” which immediately makes me less present in both activities—doing the dishes and listening.

Maybe doing an activity while listening isn’t such a bad idea, at least for me. It tends to preoccupy my brain. This may be the reason I doodle when I’m listening. It’s something to consider. I also have witnessed that teachers are the worst listeners. I get so frustrated at staff meetings when colleagues are chatting away and the presenter is doing their best at the front. This has happened my entire career. It drives my bus!!!

Benefits of being an active listener

On a trip to Turkey, I was on a tour of a stone carving workshop. The tour guide introduced himself. We did the tour. In the end, he asked the group “what is my name?” No one said a word. I spoke “Mufasa, Mr. Mufasa” He smiled and gave me a beautiful stone egg for remembering his name. I didn’t know there was a prize. I just remembered because I was listening. I’ve been complimented on how well I listen. I’m sure there are times when I suck at it. It’s a learning curve.

There is no negative to being a good listener—only benefits. The talker feels heard. The listener has an opportunity to learn something new. It’s a beautiful exchange.

I’m still learning—to listen.

As always, thank you for listening lovelies.

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