The power of listening

So… did you miss me? I took a couple of days break from this Blogtober business. After posting for 17 days straight, on Friday I woke up feeling like I had nothing to say. Nothing to write. Nothing to say.

That’s a weird state for me.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I always have something to say. In fact, some members of my family think I always have to have the last word in any discussion. I assure you, I don’t. But I understand why they have that perception.

I come from a long line of talkers. We talk a lot. We’re not always so good at listening.

I’ve spent the past couple of days listening. Actively listening. Listening more than I’ve talked. Listening more than I’ve written. I made a conscious decision that if I didn’t have anything to say, then I shouldn’t be saying something just for the sake of talking or writing.

Friday morning I had my first all staff meeting for my new job. Each of us had to give a short report on the past week and what we plan on tackling next week. These meetings are conducted in English despite English being a second or third language for almost all of the staff. One of my new colleagues expressed in Spanish her fear of giving her report in English. I could hear the fear in her voice down the phone despite the language barrier. The team in the office assured her it would be ok. She was still nervous. I explained to her that I’ve only had two Spanish lessons so far (and some time every day on DuoLingo) and that I understood her fear. I then gave a pledge to give my weekly report completely in Spanish in one months’ time. Everyone in the office erupted in laughter and delight. The office manager has even put 17 November on the office calendar so they will all remember my pledge. So I now have to deliver. But hearing my new colleague’s fear, I was able to show her that I’m scared too but willing to completely make a fool out of myself on 17 November. That it is ok for us to make mistakes, but we have to try.

Friday afternoon my daughter came home with big news and needed to talk. She needed me to listen. Not offer advice or tell her what to do. Just meet her where she was and listen. I didn’t solve things for her; I just validated her feelings and held space for her. So often that’s all anyone wants. Just to be heard and validated for what they are saying and feeling.

Friday night I hosted a dinner party for eight people. I still didn’t feel like I had much to say and I gained a lot from listening. The entire evening and my guests were fascinating. After dinner, one of my guests (someone I had only just met that evening) and I ended up having a conversation for hours where he talked and I mainly listened. I was enthralled by his story of the past few years of his life. He’s been on a life changing journey that has many parallels to my own and listening to him helped me reflect on my own journey. That’s another thing active listening often shows me: a mirror that helps me reflect on where I am in life.

The rest of my weekend has been about listening too.

Both days I’ve displayed my artworks at local markets. Normally my youngest daughter accompanies me and we chat throughout the day. This weekend she had other plans so I’ve attended both markets on my own. I’ve paid attention to the comments people have made as they visit my stall. Almost everyone talks about the beauty of the artworks. Some talk about the bright colours and how happy they are. Some people talk about the wood and I’ve engaged a few of them in some lovely conversations about working with wood. Woodworking (as well as talking) is in my family’s blood. Mainly, I just listened and was grateful for all of the compliments. My heart came home full. All of the comments I heard helped me see that my work IS beautiful and people need to see beautiful things in a world that isn’t always so beautiful.

Last night I stayed with a friend who has just come out of hospital. She didn’t want to be on her own while the rest of her family were attending a wedding. I was grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with her and listen to her. To hear her wishes, plans and thoughts about what is happening in her life. I was reminded as I listened to her that life is short and none of us know what is around the corner for us.

Active listening requires conscious effort. It requires being more interested in the other person than being interesting yourself. It requires creating a connection with the other person through your body language, as well as your verbal language. I find the more I actively listen, the more I learn about not only others, but also myself.

In fact, I’d wager to say, I’ve learned more in the last few days of being quiet than I ever learn being loud.

Where does this leave my Blogtober experiment? Will I keep posting daily or just be silent? I’m not sure. I’ve got eleven more days this month. I guess I’ll listen to my intuition each day and see if I have something to say.

If not, I might just stay quiet and hear what happens.

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