Friday, December 7, 2012

Shhhh, Listen


I'm starting to listen to myself more, trying to listen to myself in conversations. See, I have a tendency to bloviate and preach then regret it later. The habit grows out of worry. I grew up anxious about how people would evaluate who I am. I tried to measure myself on how I imagined people felt about me. I didn't believe that I could take my own measure. So I kept guessing and worrying, talking but not listening.

Today I had two different instances of this. The first when I was talking with someone about a television show. He was giving his opinion and I didn't completely agree. He was discussing one particular that bothered him. I heard myself talking, trying to defend my opinion as if he were attacking it. I listened to myself, didn't like what I heard, and stopped. Then I let him talk and I focused on listening.

I was so much happier being a listener and when it came time to talk, I was able to say more interesting things of interest to both of us.

My other encounter wasn't nearly as positive. A few of us were discussing a movie and I was talking too much. I was among smart people and I was anxious, trying to impress people. Much of what I said was uninteresting and at least one thing was just rude.

I dismissed one person's opinion, almost rolling my eyes at it as though it was beneath me. Dismissing it that way was akin to dismissing my friend. And it came about because I was too anxious to listen to anyone. Not even myself.

I'm not going on too much of a guilt trip here. Guilt isn't a useful emotion. Instead, I'm focused on this because it's good to remember for next time. Had I listened better, I would have been happier.

You know the book, Tuesday's With Morrie by Mitch Albom? I am impressed with Albom's description of  Morrie listening. His attention was complete. He loved to listen. And that's why so much of what he said is so useful and profound.

In school, I have been practicing that kind of listening. Rather than feign rapt attention, I'm really hearing what students say. I often have one-on-one time with kids and I'm trying to say less and listen more. I'm working to not teach so much as to let them learn. It's coming along.

I'm listening to my writing also. I want to hear my voice, examine it, and come to better know myself. I'm learning. I'm listening. And I'm writing on.