I don’t listen well.
At church for three sundays in adult class
We have been learning to listen well.
Though I have trained others to listen,
I found myself unable to follow instructions.
Don’t race ahead in your mind preparing your next comment.
Keep your mind still and don’t speak.
Get into what the other is saying in a sincere mode.
Wait for the lesson, what you will learn from the ‘other.’
Humbug, I said.
Conversation is a two way street, I said.
It’s often competitive, say I.
Needless to say this wasn’t received well by the instructor.
And so I’m left with: where did that come from?
This morning, after meditation, I found it.
When I was young, I often heard, “Well, do you have something to contribute to the conversation?”
Or, “Do you have something to add?”
Or, “Don’t speak until you have something to say.”
As a consequence, when I am listening, I am saying to myself, “Do I have something to. Contribute to this conversation?”
And I race to add an anecdote from my files of life stories,
Just what my listening coach told me not to do.
My memory is slipping now, but even before, in my anxiousness to contribute,
I often interrupted or talked over my conversation companion,
To add my contribution.
So the result of this coaching to be a better listener is:
That I listen to my grandchildren;
I listen to my wife (I don’t think she would agree here);
I listen to strangers and to friends.
I sit quietly waiting for the kernel,
That kernel that I will learn from, attention is required.
And I am attentive while listening, quieting my mind,
And respectful even if I don’t agree with you.
I still have my outbreaks, like this morning at fitness over Fifty,
Where I took advantage of the person on the machine next to me (twice) to unload,
About being a good listener and my need to make a contribution
To the conversation.
What do you think?
Go ahead, I’m listening.
-Small town boy