Are You Listening?
I used to think I was a good listener. I’m a keen believer that listening is crucial to good communication and essential to having good relationships. But the other night I learned something about listening…from my four year old.
“Oh me daddy…Oh me daddy.” “Daddy. Oh me…Oh me daddy.” “Oh me daddy!” My daughter’s voice started out softly, but quickly was echoing through our house. Standing next to my husband, who was seated at the computer in our dining room, Sofia had something to say and was determined to make sure that we would hear her. Cleaning up our dinner mess, I stood over the kitchen sink thinking over the day’s activities. I wasn’t paying attention to my very vocal daughter until her voice reached a fevered pitch. Intent on discovering what was causing this outburst and in an effort to end it quickly, I did what I should have done when it began…I listened.
Turning my full attention to Sofia, I listened intently to her words and they immediately became clear. I nearly jumped up and down sending suds flying. “She’s saying, “Hold me daddy! Hold me daddy!” I declared to my husband and son who were somewhat frightened by my outburst. Now this may seem a bit odd…such joy over a simple statement communicated by a four year old. Sofia, however, is not your ordinary four year old. She’s really quite extraordinary. Maybe I’m biased as her mother. Yet, I’m constantly learning from her each day.
Sofia has some developmental delays, speech being one of them. Although her speech is somewhat delayed, she’s doing well and learning every day. She seems to learn new words without me even being aware. Hence my joy at realizing that she was effectively communicating that she wanted her dad to hold her, despite our being completely unaware.
So we threw a little celebration. We do that a lot. There’s a lot to celebrate. Maybe if we paid a little more attention we’d be partying every day. Each time Sofia does something new, the three of us remember the days upon days of teaching her a new concept and when she gets it, we’re practically busting at the seams with pride.
Which leads me back to being schooled by my four year old in listening. Listening to Sofia requires turning my full attention to her, to listen to her words, to watch her body language and her motions. Focusing is essential to understand the true meaning of what she’s trying to convey. Only when I turned my full attention to her did I hear her clearly and understand her words. Listening is like that.
Maybe it’s not as pronounced with someone without a speech delay, but without really focusing on them do I really understand the true meaning of what they’re conveying? I have to ask myself exactly how am I listening. Am I listening intently or am I listening while multi-tasking thoughts in my head? I’ve read that we only take in about 25% of what we hear. I have to wonder what I’ve been missing in that other 75%. How about you? How are you listening today?
“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure.” – Henri Nouwen