I believe there’s a big difference between hearing someone and actively listening to that person. You can physically “hear” sounds, but you have to actually pay attention and work to actively listening.
I’m not alone in thinking this. You can count me among the wise and wonderful who believe in the art of listening.
This is a picture of my dad and I on my wedding day a million years ago.
In 2004, my dad passed away from a sudden heart attack. I spoke for my family at his memorial service. I forced myself to keep my emotions in check. I wanted to memorialize and share stories about my father, not sob uncontrollably in front of a large group of people who knew and loved my dad.
After the memorial, I fell apart. I cried. I screamed. I hid away. I felt anger, depression and doubt. It’s like my world fell off its axis.
My family lives in Washington and Oregon. I lived in Utah at the time. My family helped me navigate the grief, but the long distance made it difficult for them to help me cope on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, I had four people nearby who help me put my world back together. How? They listened.
First, my son, Casey
More than once Casey witnessed me melt into a screaming, sobbing pool of grief. He’d step away from his homework, his on-line video game or chat, and simply sit with me.
He’d patiently listened to my rants without offering any advise, because he knew his advise couldn’t help me. Then he’d hand me a box of tissues, a Pepsi, and two Excedrin.
The second person, Karole
Karole and I been friends for nearly 40 years. At least once or twice a month, I’d drive to Karole’s house in Idaho to cry like a baby. Other times we took long walks and talked about our kids and our aging parents.
Karole listened. She fed me. And, most importantly, she made sure I didn’t get tipped drinking my one fuzzy navel (Peach Schnapps and orange juice over ice).
My buddy, John, would lend an ear or tell a silly joke
Somehow, John would suddenly show up at my door and take me to lunch just when I needed him. He listened to me, but he also had an uncanny ability to distract me from the sad.
John coached college basketball. Once he told me a 20 minute long story about recruiting a basketball player. The player in the story ended up choosing Iona University. Why? Because he thought he would own the university. What? I-own-a university. Get it? Yeah, I know. Stupid joke. But it did make me laugh through the tears!
My friend and co-worker, Allison
Allison turned out to be my fourth set of ears. Allison advised the student newspaper and I advised the student television newscast. Plus we worked on several promotional projects together.
Allison would walk into my office, and automatically knew when she needed to close the door and just sit and listen. Other days she’d show up at my door with a vase of flowers from her garden or a stash of chocolate bars.
As I write this, tears fill my eyes. These people, these friends, helped me get through an incredibly difficult time. Each person made the time and took the patience to just listen to me. It wasn’t always easy. I am forever grateful. I’m not sure I can truly repay them for their gift of listening to me.
So, who has shared the gift of listening with you? What did they do or say that convinced you they were actively listening… not just hearing you? Go back to Canvas and share your story.