Talking With a Listener

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

I believe that the ability to really listen to others is a valuable quality, and that being a good listener can only help strengthen the relationships we form with others. In many ways we have only our own perspective on which to rely and compare what happens around us, and taking the time to listen to others can only help to enrich that understanding. And maybe, perhaps, even humble it.

But being a listener tends to get me in tricky spots as well.

In my family I have two younger brothers. Two younger brothers that are easily excitable, volatile, and don’t necessarily agree with each other. Every time I used to come home from school, I’d find myself in a long car ride with two very excited siblings that wanted to relay to me—in vivid detail—EVERYTHING I have missed at the same time (and volume) as the other. Because of my usual tendencies I’ve often ended up following a conversation that runs more like a tennis match. Woes betide me if there is already something requiring my attention! There are times where I want to cut this chattering short, to move on with what I need to do, but I’m the oldest! I’d never have the heart to deny them.

However, it is far more surprising to me that these situations happen even beyond the scope of family: there have been occasions where I’ll be waiting at bus stops or for new classes on my own and strangers would strike up unexpected conversations.

For instance, a fellow bus rider might ask me where I’m headed and then launch into a tale about where they’ve been. A simple “How’s your day been?” to a classroom neighbor might turn into an extensive account of their past week. Or an accidental moment of eye contact at the queue for the train might earn me a new buddy for the ride. These are almost always pleasant surprises, mind you, but they are surprises all the same. I don’t expect strangers to randomly start a conversation or for an answer to be more than the usual polite length when it’s my first time meeting someone. Yet here is someone’s life story! (And what a story it usually is.)

I guess I’m saying that sometimes I’m already distracted with my own concerns, or even internally debating the merits of Stranger Danger, and being a listener in these situations isn’t the best. There are times where I wonder: What was it about me that made me look like a good candidate in a room full of equal strangers? What was it about how I reacted that encouraged such a detailed answer?

Or even: what do I do if I’m just not in the mood to listen? It can get tiring hearing out every detailed problem from those around you. I understand how cathartic it is to get something off your chest—and I will never fault anyone for needing to share that burden—but the role of listening in that sense is helping to shoulder a burden all the same. There have been times where I was told something I’m not really sure I should have heard, or where I had been asked for help in a problem I’m not really prepared to handle.

Those are tough situations: not just for me as a listener, but also for the person who wanted to share. In the end I take my role seriously, so if something personal is shared with me and I do not hear otherwise, it stays with me. If I’m not in the best place to help, then I will do my best to suggest better help—after all, I only have my own small perspective from which to compare. And if I’m simply too tired, I make a point to make time for myself. Sometimes this means I need to rely on my trusty headphones for a little peace in public places. And sometimes I need to find a listener of my own.

Does this tend to happen to you? Do people seem ready to launch into extensive epics or tiny tales at the smallest glance? Then take heart that you might simply have a good ear, and if you are up to it:

Don’t be afraid to be that listener.

It doesn’t take any special credentials or skill, just some patience and empathy. It might just mean the world to someone, and it might just change yours. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a listener, it’s that people love to talk about what they’re most passionate about—and beyond that, people love to talk about themselves! It doesn’t hurt to give that a chance every once in awhile, as I’ve been an audience to some really entertaining, enriching, and sobering lessons from others that were just waiting for the perfect opportunity to be heard.

So if by random chance you happen to meet me, know that I’ll be more than happy to lend my ear. We all have our triumphs, our failings, our dreams, our frustrations…

…and I’ll always love a good story.

About Jessica Morales

Jessica is the Marketing Director & Publisher of NWYT. With a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and a minor in Music History, she is an avid reader, less frequent writer, and altogether just loves to hear a good story. To that extent, her field of study may have been slightly influenced by a certain movie archaeologist. Read more about her here. See All of Jessica's Posts

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