Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Listen Up

It is a skill we are born with: the ability to listen. Some of us have it fine tuned down to a science. And some of us, well, we never hear anyone over ourselves. We all have the friend who never shuts up and we all want the friend who really listens to us. If we are lucky, our spouse fills the space for listening and we do the same for them. We all want to be heard and that probably is a good reason why there is blogging. Who doesn't check their comments to see who was listening. Most of us probably consider ourselves good listeners, but do you ever forget to? Do you ever just blather on about inane b.s. and wonder why the person we are talking to has tuned out. To anyone who has kids this happens all the time. As a matter of fact it also happens to anyone who has employees. Sometimes I feel like my kids are my employees and they are never really listening.

Let me tell you about my employees. I have three very wonderful girls, full of energy and the desire to learn. They are all in school, in which I know for a fact that they sit and listen and learn there. But on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day I have to say, "will you listen!", "are you listening?", "did you hear what I said?" Ironically, for something we given at birth, it takes a lot of fine tuning to master something so incredibly simple.

Here is where I think: I have this mastered right? I am an adult, I am a nurse practitioner. My whole career is based on the fact that I am a great listener. I am teaching my employees how to listen so I must be good at it. That is where I was wrong.

Recently my oldest employee came home from school with some tears in her eyes and full of stories about how so and so is such a meanie and no one is nice and she just hates school. Let me preface this by telling you that I am Italian, and I think evolutionary speaking we have cornered the market on being reactionary, hot headed and stubborn. My first reaction is to want to bitch slap that little @#$er for upsetting my precious baby. But then I come back to reality, hoping I did not say that out loud and ask her a few more questions. I don't even think I have really heard her, I am just mad. After a long lecture from me on how to deal with the meanie I notice she has this glazed look in her eye like, "are you serious?". Damn. Maybe that did not go so well. Being the good boss that want to be, I tell her I am sorry if that did not make sense but its all I got. I hope it helps and I am here for you so lets just move on and you can tell your father about it later.

Stage Left: Mr. Q (my spouse) walks in the door. What happened today, he asks? Well, I tell him our oldest employee is having some problems and I think he should intervene on this matter. Really I think, "what is he going to say that I have not?", but lets give him a shot. So they start to talk and I walk away pretending not to be listening as I go upstairs. I don't hear him say much of anything and they are down there for quite sometime. Then the oldest comes up the steps smiling telling me she feels better.

What the heck? What did Mr. Q say? Now I am desperate to know what just happened.

So Mr. Q., what did you say?


Nothing ! What does that mean?

Mr. Q tells me he just listened to her and gave her hug and told her he was always there for her to talk to and would always LISTEN. At this point I feel like the worst boss ever. How could I have missed that trick. It is so easy, so natural. But I missed it. I was so busy reacting to the pain that I saw in her eyes that I forgot to do the one thing that we are all born to do: listen. For god sakes we have not one but two ears.

There are moments in our lives when we think we have something mastered. But to truly be a master at something, there has to be acknowledgement that there is always a way to fine tune it even more.


  1. Oh.. this is the age it all starts, huh (girls will be girls will be girls...)? From one hot-headed Italian chick to another.... NOT an unusual first reaction (ask my oldest :-). Listening... hmmm.... novel idea.... I should do more - seriously. Food for thought - thanks.

  2. I think you have listened to me complain and tell you all my problems..and you give the best advice. always. But this blog entry makes complete sense. Because I find myself doing the same.. and I was recently confronted about this a few weeks ago... and it's funny how just lending a ear can mean the world to someone and just telling them you're there for them. Yet I always feel like I need to say more and I was no help. Can't wait to read your blog tomorrow! :)

  3. Great reminder and a well-told anecdote. I am also prone to trying to problem-solve when really I could do a better job of listening. I know that I often just want to vent when I am having a hard time, so why is it so hard for me to remember to listen first, dispense opinions/advice later?

  4. Kristen,
    I wish I knew how to listen al the time too. I am a much better at reacting. I guess just talking about it helps.