How active are you in your conversations? Are you preparing your answer to something someone said; or, are you planning a humorous retort, if you are uncomfortable? One final question: Is this listening?
All too often, I am guilty of all of the above practices. Guilty as charged!!!
I am too busy preparing my own responses, because I sometimes want others to see how deep a thinker I am; I want to show off my education. When I do this, I am a lousy conversationalist. However, when I am listening, truly listening, I am not preparing my answers. I am hearing what the others are saying, learning their ideas, their feelings, and what they think about a subject. When I do this, my first response is usually a question, a question to clarify what someone has said, or to gain more insight into his position. The result of this is a fantastic conversation; it is an unforgettable experience when two or more people are actively engaged in listening.
Recently, I participated in a small talk-back session after our church service. The Gospel reading dealt with reaping the harvest, separating the tares (weeds) from the wheat. If you want to read it, it is the last half of Matthew 13. Being the educator that I am, I took notes during the service; my memory is not as it used to be. So, I showed up to the talk back with my notes clutched in my hand, and never looked at them. Yes, they were lying in front of me, but the conversation was very engaging. I was listening to what others were saying, getting more out of the service, because I was hearing what others, besides myself, thought about it.
I am involved in a Lectio Divina group a church. We read short passages from the Gospels, meditate on them, then speak about what our views are and how these views control or influence our lives. Or, what influence this may have had in our pasts. We are not allowed to ask questions or to interrupt those speaking. We can refer to what someone has said when presenting our own experience or thinking, but only as a reference, not a critique. We are forced to actively listen. This is a great learning experience and great practice for me as an educator; it has aided me in my conversations in my literature classes, because I am not judging the student on his or her answer; I am listening to what my students are saying about the readings and asking questions to help them clarify their thinking, which helps them, when writing their essays.
One final thought; each night, I meditate before going to bed. This meditation is another form of listening,listening to God. By the end of each day, enough has happened that I need to clear my mind of any negativity that may have crept into my mind. It is a fifteen to twenty-minute time of listening for God’s words. Sometimes, I am given answers to questions and problems I didn’t know I had. Other times, God has given me an idea for a prayer or a complete poem that I write down immediately. (Remember my bad member!) Most of the time, though, I am too revved up to really listen, and I just sit there, fretting over my day. This is helpful, also, because during this quiet time, when Linda has retired, I can let the day drain from my mind and then go to bed and sleep, rather than fret.
Each day when I wake, I pledge to myself to listen!!!