When I taught first grade many years ago, I looked for opportunities to praise my little students. Every day I awarded a “Best Rester” ribbon to the child who was quietest and most compliant during our rest period after lunch. I also gave “Best Listener” awards to those who paid careful attention to what I said.
I want to be a good listener, but lately I realize I am deserving of no award in that area.
Since my husband and I have been together forty-plus years, I think I can anticipate what he is about to say. Thus, I often cut him off in mid-statement. For example, the other day while Dan and I were relaxing in the hammock, he said to me, “I am thinking ….” I interrupted and said, “I know. You are thinking we should have made this screened-in porch bigger.”
“Well, I do wish that,” he said, “but I was going to say I am thinking I might be more comfortable if you shifted a bit to the left.”
Listening Rule #1: Allow the speaker to finish what he/she is saying instead of interrupting and finishing the speaker’s sentence yourself.
One day last week I offered to fill a little wading pool with water for our four-year-old granddaughter to play in. As I hooked up the hose, she said to me, “Don’t put yucky water in it, Grandma.”
I was surprised. “I won’t put yucky water in the pool,” I assured her.
Within a few minutes she repeated her request. “Don’t put yucky water in the pool, Grandma,” she said.
I said to my little granddaughter, “I would never put yucky water in your pool, Sweetheart.”
“This morning you did,” she said.
I barely stopped myself from snapping, “No, I didn’t!”
Then I remembered that earlier in the day she had asked to play in the little pool. But the pool contained water (along with grass clippings, dead insects, etc.) from the previous day. Therefore, I had told her she couldn’t play in it because, in my exact words, the water was yucky. I understood then that she, with her four-year-old power of reasoning, thought I had intentionally filled the pool with yucky water that morning.
Listening Rule #2: When people say things that sound outlandish, pause and consider all the possible meanings of the statement before you shoot them that Are you crazy? look.
The other day my husband was scrolling through ads on the Internet. He called me into the room and said, “Look at these nice blouses, Deb. Do you want to order some?”
That is honestly what he said, but because I must have been in a snarky mood, this is what I heard: “Deb, you buy the wrong clothes. You should let me shop for you.”
Listening Rule #3: Resist assigning unkind meanings to the things people say. Be gracious enough to assume the person means what he/she says, and nothing more.
I am not likely to qualify as a finalist for the “Best Listener” Award. However, give me a soft, comfortable recliner and a light quilt; open the window and let a sweet breeze blow into the room, and I’ll be a shoo-in for the Best Rester Award.