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Listening

On Monday I went to the dentist for a maintenance cleaning. The delightful young woman brushing up my teeth (see what I did there? haha) greeted me in a friendly fashion. She hadn’t seen me in six months so she said, “How has your year been going?”

I responded honestly, stating that it’s been kind of a rough year. She responded with a hearty:

“Good.”

Yes. Good.

I thought of pointing out what she had just done, perhaps suggesting she not ask the question at all if she doesn’t care enough to focus on an answer. But I didn’t want to make her feel bad. I know people tend to answer with a general positive response so that probably won’t happen to her again anyway. And she was being friendly, theoretically trying to make me feel as welcome and comfortable as one can be in the dentist chair.

It got me thinking about my own listening habits.

It’s becoming more of a habit to put my phone away and even take off my watch so I get no notifications when spending leisure time with someone. That’s good (and still getting better).

What I’m thinking about is a bit beyond that, though. Last week I was listening to a podcast where a man was talking about how important it was to ask his wife about her day. Especially if it was a bad day. What he realized after some time was that he often tried to fix the problems that happened in her day.

Sometimes things can’t be fixed. Sometimes we just need someone to listen.

In the podcast, he mentioned that now when she wants to talk, he asks her upfront if she wants solutions or just someone to listen. Frequently, she just want someone to listen.

I think that’s just brilliant.

Not easy for a Happiness Engineer to do. It’s wired in us to come up with solutions to problems, but it does make sense.

So that’s my next step in the game of life. I’m working more on not only listening, but listening appropriately. And I hope that if someone tells me they had a bad year, I will be alert and responsive enough to not imply I’m happy about it 🙂

11 replies on “Listening”

It’s taken me a lifetime to learn to listen instead of being a “Happiness Engineer.”
I miss Don, my greatest role model who listened with interest and direct eye contact, truly listening without interrupting or offering suggestions too quickly.

He was an amazing man. It’s very cool that he did it to an extent that others noticed. What a great role model. A gift even after he is gone physically.

In the last year or so, we hit this! I don’t remember what I was upset about, but when I told John, he tried to fix it. I was able to tell him it couldn’t be fixed, but I just needed him to listen. He got it immediately. Now I tell him as I begin that I need a listener. It’s working marvelously well.

That’s so cool! Glad to know the implementation works 🙂 And how fun we both discovered that this year.

> In the podcast, he mentioned that now when she wants to talk, he asks her upfront if she wants solutions or just someone to listen. Frequently, she just want someone to listen.

That is brilliant indeed. I was talking to a friend about that the other day! Amazing post <3

That’s so interesting that you were just talking about it, too. Glad you liked it. 🙂

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, Chrissie, but as you get older, the listening gets *worse*, not better… at least that’s been the case for me. I truly have to make an effort to focus on what the person is saying. I think it must be some part of my brain that’s getting – no! must I say it?! – OLD. As if it’s saying, Look, I’ve done my bit for over 70 years now, that’s enough, no?? Well… no, it’s not. So I try. I really do.

Oh, you – or someone else, I wasn’t listening 😆 – mentioned the phone. I am such a phone addict, I take the darn thing with me as I leave a room – even to go to the bathroom! Ay yi yi… Gotta fix that!!

Oh no! Thanks for the warning. I’m going to have to fight against that one.

This is so true! When I was a counselor, it used to amaze me how often someone would say, “Thanks, that was so helpful.” When all I said for the entire hour was “uh-huh, uh-huh, and then what happened?” If I tried to fix their problems, on the other hand, I’d usually get all kinds of push-back on why each suggestion I offered wouldn’t work. Most of the people who came in for a counseling session just wanted to have someone listen to them. And it took me nearly FOREVER to learn that. LOL

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