God's Girl

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

Good Gifts: Listening

on January 6, 2013

Ahh…Saturday morning. It had been a long work week and I was ready. I sprawled (yes, I am a Southern girl. We say sprawled.) out on the couch with a good book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. I opened my book. Chapter One. Ohh…this is getting good already. I think I’ll love this book. “Mom, can I go play at Tanner’s house?”, my son yelled though he stood right in front of me. “Yes, honey go for it.” I told him. “Ok, that wasn’t too much interruption.”, I thought. My daughter and a friend were playing in her room, but I was able to ignore the noise coming from that location. (Any mother will tell you that they have the distinct ability to shut out noise most of the time, unless it involves an emergency of some kind. This is a survival skill I believe God gave us to keep us from pulling all our hair out. Without it, we would all be bald and wigs would be the most precious commodity on the market.) All was right with the world again. I had established my warm, cozy spot on the couch. The book was getting better and better with each word. That’s when  I heard it. The door shut a second time. My daughter was stilling playing happily in her room with her friend. What could it be?
I jolted up from the couch nearly spilling my coffee. The dog! I had not yet decided if Rosebud, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever was a great dog or my mortal enemy. She is a wonderful dog, but when she gets out she turns her ears off and her nose on. Nothing else matters. No one exists. If you come close to her she thinks it’s a game and runs away quicker than a child running for the ice cream truck. Of course, this happens most often when we are running late or I am in pjs. It’s a Murphy’s Law thing.
Today I was in my pjs and my husband wasn’t home. I was mad because my son had left the door open and mad because I had to run out in the cold with just a coat, my pjs and an old pair of Crocs. Suddenly, the girls who had been playing together so well in my daughter’s room came running out to “help”. Their idea was to chase down the dog and bring her home, which meant that she would just run more. I told my daughter and her friend to keep playing and I would get the dog, but they were off, already caught up in the thrill of the chase. My daughter kept yelling, “I got this Mom!” I kept yelling, “Go back home!” The girls found her which I was thankful for, but they still wanted to chase her which I was not so thankful for. I yelled at them again, “Get back in the house!” Now Rosebud was on the playground behind our house. I was less then two feet from her, calling her name using a soft soothing sweet voice while trying to reach her before she ran. She ignored me. I jumped for her and she was gone. I began screaming at her using a much harsher tone and words like “stupid dog get back here!!” I finally went inside and got a treat. I was able to lead her home by the nose with a treat just above it. I gave it to her when she came in the house. I didn’t know whether that would reinforce her getting out in the future or not. I didn’t care. All I wanted was quiet. I wanted everyone around me to listen and no one did. My son left the door open. My daughter ran after the dog when I told her not to, and my dog acted like I didn’t exist once she got loose. I found myself muttering to myself…”Why won’t anyone listen to me?”
Listening is hard. It requires more mental energy than almost any other task. It can be epspecially tough when it involves words we don’t want to hear or opinions we disagree with. We learn 85% of what we know through listening, yet the average person listens with a 25% comprehension rate. That means even if we are tuned in to what another person is saying, we get it right about 1/4th of the time. One of the chief complaints you will find in most marriages is that “my spouse doesn’t listen to me” or “I don’t feel understood”. How many times have you heard parents say to their children, “If you would just stop and listen…”? How many times have you said it yourself? Forty-six percent of reasons listed for workers who have separated from their job involve “not being heard in the workplace.”

What we have here friends is a failure to communicate. Why? I believe it’s because we think that healthy communication involves a large dose of talking. How else can we be understood? Maybe it’s not about being understood, but seeking to understand.

We formulate our thoughts into what we will say next while others are talking all the while barely catching the words and body language a person is using during our conversation. Sometimes I think our own worst enemy lives right between our ears. Today I am going to give others a gift. Instead of the gift of gab, I think I will just lend them my ear. Random acts of kindness are important but for today, I am choosing this specific act of kindness. I am choosing the path of humility. Does this mean I won’t speak? Of course not, but I will measure my words. I will remind myself that I am not the most important person in my conversations. I will put others before myself and lay my need to be heard on the altar of my pride.  Today I will love others well, not with my mouth, but with my ears and eyes.  Who knows I might just learn a thing or two.

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