Friday, July 30, 2010

The Challenge of Listening

I was recently home on vacation. Home, where I live, is Cypress, CA. Home, where I grew up, is Ravensdale/Maple Valley, WA. I’m speaking of the latter home. While ‘home,’ I had an embarrassing gaffe that I was completely unaware of. My grandfather made it over from Eastern Washington to visit with us during our stay as well as to see the rest of the family on the west side of the Cascades.

I found out a day later that three times during our conversation in my dad’s backyard I had totally spaced out and cut off a conversation almost like he was never there. It was lame of me. I felt terrible when I found out. I wrote a note of apology and spoke with him a week or two later. Everything’s fine. Perhaps better than it was before.

But what’s more embarrassing is that I think I do this often. My brain just disconnects and I go to something else mentally. Like that dog in Up whose attention is completely shot when someone says, “Squirrel.” My poor listening skills just “are,” but seeing how they hurt someone I love and respect so much made me wonder what kind of damage I had done to others. It boils down, in my mind, to an issue of respect and honoring people. I dishonored my grandfather by not valuing him with my undivided attention. And I do the same with others all the time.

A friend recommended a book to me awhile back and my first priority upon returning ‘home’ (Cypress this time) was to read it. It’s Quick-to-Listen Leaders by Ping and Clippard. I just finished it and there are good challenges all over, but there are a couple chapters in particular that I need to nail down to do the work/training it takes to be a good listener. It might come naturally for some people, but not for me. So I’ll try to put together a couple posts soon that summarize those points where I want to see the most improvement in my life.

In the meantime, I’m working to listen better and it has been a blessing. I don’t always need to run to the next thing. Things get done just fine – even if I slow down to listen and give people my full attention. At least the same amount gets done (maybe more), but people are honored in the process. This work seems to be paying off. I hope the skills will help all the more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The State of the Blog

It’s odd. I have tried to be really consistent in my blogging and giving content from the things I’ve been reading. It got really exhausting and the joy of writing and blogging became burdensome. I initially sought to blog for my own purposes – whether anyone read it or not. What’s funny is that as soon as I quit writing, I posted what was intended to be a humorous anecdote from St. Augustine and received more comments than I had ever received. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. It gave some substance to what was intended to be humorous regarding my aging.

Anyway, I’m reviving the blogging after taking more than a month off. It will look different this time around. More sporadic. Less ‘content’ from books I’m reading and perhaps a little more response, commentary on the significance of it (at least in my life). At least that’s what I think for now. This could all change when I get tired of this angle on blogging. Perhaps this will be a bit more refreshing than this last ‘spurt’ of blogging has been. Either way, I hope you find something helpful and it will again be a useful tool as I process things a little better in a public forum.

What to expect coming up? There will be some residual posts with “Missional Mondays” I had prepared before getting exhausted as well as a few “Hump Day Histories” with Augustine. I may end up doing more of these (for example, Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy makes up the upcoming “Missional Mondays,” but only for the first few chapters … I’ll keep going if I get ‘inspired!’).