The Gift of Listening

When you sit still and pay attention to someone, you help them feel valued and loved.

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Posted in , Nov 20, 2017

Listening

Most of us are great when it comes to talking. Few of us are as good when it comes to listening. November 24, the day after Thanksgiving, is the National Day of Listening, and it’s a great reminder that just listening to someone can be a gift to them—and you.

People fascinate me. I love to hear their stories, and I’m always surprised at what happens when I’m quiet and just let them talk. Sometimes the people who seem the quietest often have the most intriguing stories if I’ll just stop and really listen. 

My life has been touched by people who were great listeners. My grandparents excelled at it. When I sat at their kitchen table, and they said, “tell us what’s going on with you right now,” I knew they meant it—that they really wanted to hear all about me and my family. That gift of caring wrapped around me like a blanket still warm from the dryer.

Sometimes it takes a little planning to be a good listener, asking open-ended questions like, “Tell me about your day at school!” instead of something that can be answered with a yes or a no. And sometimes it helps to practice being quiet, because most of us have the tendency to pop into the conversation a good bit. 

Try asking some senior citizens to tell you about what it was like when they were children or about their careers. My husband and I befriended a sweet elderly couple while we were on vacation one year. We met Neil and Terri at a restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. They’d been admiring our family while they sat alone at their table, and we’d been talking about how cute they were. They stopped to speak and that began a friendship that lasted for years.

We’d spend time with them whenever we were on the island, and one night, they started talking about their lives. It was fascinating. They’d scuba-dived around the world. This sweet quiet man had worked on the Manhattan Project. And the stories went on and on. We’d never have truly learned about them if we hadn’t just let them talk.

Listening is free. And it’s a gift that we can give someone else—one that will make them feel loved and valued. Look around you today. There are people everywhere who just need to know that someone cares. That they have worth. And when you take the time to listen, that’s exactly what you’ll give them. 

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