“Hey, Iara! Are you busy? I need someone to talk to.” This is not a specific message I’ve gotten before, but I get variations of text messages like this one on a regular basis. This doesn’t surprise me though, ever since I was a child I would always sit at the table and listen to my grandma talk about her life, frustrations, passions, and the “awful” men in her life.
My dad felt sorry for me because I spent most of my summers with her and I would listen to the same stories over and over again. What my dad didn’t know is that I loved listening to her and to anyone that was willing to share their deepest thoughts and feelings with me.
This remains true to this day –I love to listen to people talk and share with me things that perhaps other people are too busy to listen. Don’t get me wrong, at times I sacrifice some of my time to listen to others, but I can’t do it all the time…that would be nuts! The good thing is that these people don’t take me for granted and thank me for “truly listening” to them.
Now, what does truly listening mean? Don’t we all listen the same way? What do I do differently than other people? Is it that I make eye contact? Is it that I don’t interrupt and wait for them to be done talking? Is it that I try to put myself in their shoes? Is it that I ask questions that are not so much about what happened, but rather about how they felt? Is it that others talk too much instead of listen? I’m not exactly sure what makes me a good listener, but I do know that this is one of my best qualities.
I think I fall in love with how people talk about things that matter to them. I fall in love with how people’s eyes spark after realizing that I care about what they have to say. I fall in love with how much I learn by listening to other people’s experiences. I think this is what life is about. I can’t speak without listening first. And at times I just don’t speak at all. Is it even needed?
After listening to a friend talk and pour their hearts out, I don’t always know what to say, but I do know how to look at them and let them know that even though I don’t fully understand what they’re going through, I still care.
It’s not about being born a good listener though. I remember when I was a kid I would cover peoples’ mouths if I didn’t want to hear them talk. (I was an only child and my mom passed when I was very young, so I basically got a pass for everything) But I was conditioned into listening more. Life gave me different experiences and placed people in my life that taught me to listen more and talk less.
Like anything else in life, you are capable of learning how to listen more, even when all you want to do is talk.