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.

9 comments:

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C said...

LOL I reference the dog from Up very often... "Squirrel!"

Good blog, just happened to stumble across it.

April Curtis said...

i was reading your blog and i thought to myself that i do space out alot... even when i shouldnt. During my school day i seem i can't pay attention on several occasions. I thought your blog was great :)

Visit my blogg and becoming a follower would be great. Thankk you have a great day :) Oh and im new at this. So i gotta get more posts up.

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lil corner said...

I know what you mean about listening or what I call "being there". Particularly when it comes to giving undivided attention to God and others. It is a challenge.

Sadie said...

I find myself saying sorry all the time, right after I cut someone off. It is a bad habit. Thanks for the book reference!

Anonymous said...

Justin,
Wow, what a great post. You don't know me but I believe I graduated from high school with your parents. I am on facebook with both Margaret and Rocky McElderry and that is how I somehow, some way got to your blog. Since you graduated 20 years later that is how I came to that conclusion. Anyway I have been instructing at a Workforce education center in Wenatchee for 10 years and love to see the "lightbulb" go on with people. I have that same fast twitch(i call it)brain processing which gets me thinking and sometimes interrupting so that I don't let people share enough and like you said I don't take the time to just listen better. I have to work really hard at taking the time to listen. I applaud you and the person who shared with you the effects (to you granfather)realizing that they know that was not your intent. That given a little guidance and friendly words that you can forever become a better listener. I wish I would have had that guidance and realized the effects of not being a good listener at your age. I worry about the people that I hurt cause I didn't realize that I wasn't being a good listener.(I have a great partner that helps me also, my Q now when I get caught in my old habits is when my husband gently squeezes my hand and I look at him and I realize I wasn't being a good listener). Look forward to reading more great posts. Cyndie Keith Alto