Wednesday, July 22, 2009


"How are you", is a standard greeting which is usually met with the polite response,"Fine, thank you-- You?" These greetings should be saved for the grocery clerk or bag boy for these phrases are generally empty of all meaning.

The phrases are just social niceties and seldom display real concern or actual state of well being. It is meant as a simple greeting and the response just acknowledges that the other person is aware you exist. Oddly, it is often a total stranger who will give you a detailed account as to how they really are.

However when someone puts emphasis on the word "are", pay attention for they probably really want to know. That is when it is safe to be a bit more informative in your response. This form of the greeting usually come from close friends.

Often we say "fine" to our friends so they won't worry. I have been known to give that same "Fine" response to a doctor, all the while racked with fever and nursing bone aching chills. Come on now, who am I kidding. I am not "fine" or I wouldn't be there but it is hard to stop that reflexive answer. Do we really listen to the response?

That started me thinking about the art of listening. Yes it is an art and a skill, which too few people including me have bothered to hone. There are different kinds of listeners. 

Some people are what I call "pouncers." They are like predators, always watching for that opening in a conversation, usually when you must take a breath, so that they can leap in with their similar yet better story, their way to have handled the situation or sometimes to steer the conversation in another only vaguely related direction. Their intense interest in my breath patterns scares me a little.

Unfortunately, the "impatient listener" is me in a nut shell. If something is brought up in conversation that I want to know more about, I will ask my question, right then, often while the person is in mid sentence. My excuse is that with my memory, I have to ask while the question is hot or it is gone.

 However I often totally derail the speaker and they struggle to get back to the original point after taking care of me. Bad Patti. I really am trying. Knowing your fault is half the solution, Wonder if there is a 12 step program for "conversation disruptors".

Fortunately, most people fall somewhere in between but then there are the Picasso's of listening. They are in a class by themselves. We certainly don't need every one to be like this for it would then the world would be eerily quiet and the joys of exchange would be lost. However, an occasional one is a real treat. I had such a friend and I hope you have one, or better yet, that you are one.

Jeanne' (pronounced Ja Nay)was my friend who was the consummate listener. I have seen her just mesmerize men who always complemented her on how easy she was to talk to. In actuality, the men had done almost all of the talking without realizing it. She just gently prodded them and somehow made them more interesting than they first appeared.

She did this not only with men but with everyone, strangers, women and children. Kids adored her for they were finally "really" listened to. The amazing thing is that it was not a ploy with her. She sincerely thought most people fascinating and it translated. There is a fine line here between being skillful and just plain nosy. She never crossed that line.

The writer in me makes me a decent listener as I am always looking for that story. However, I still have that "interrupter" thing going on. Almost 70 but still a work in progress. Guess we are never done.

Recognize your self here or perhaps you have a very different slant you want to share? I am listening-- and thanks to blogging, it is impossible for me to interrupt.


  1. When I worked with a wide variety of people all day, I was a more careful listener; I had to be.

    Since I retired, and since cats don't provide much feedback when spoken to, I suspect that I tend to talk more than I listen when I am with other people. I need to work on becoming more like your friend who just listened most of the time.

  2. I try to listen carefully and thoughtfully which also helps me to not be rude by interrupting. One of my peeves is a "sentence finisher" or one who comes up with your words and spouts them off before you can finish your sentence, usually so he/she can start talking sooner.

    My best friend growing up had a fairly severe stutter and I just hated to watch someone finish his sentences. It seemed to me that it would frustrate an already frustrating situation for him.

    Everyone needs to slow down and listen.

    Good post, Patti.

  3. I have been known to jump into someone else's monologue. I can be an impatient listener, especially if the speaker is taking a winding path to the heart of the story. I am an instant editor too. In fact, I don't know why people want to talk to me at all!

  4. Hmmm, at times I fit into all of them. I need to learn everything I have to say is not a news flash!

    I try, and need to try harder, to remember how much more I learn by listening.

    My Daddy was sobot prophetic and prosaic when he said, "When chose me from the 7 babies available for adoption, you were talking then, and have never stopped talking your whole life!"

  5. Good Post. I have a friend who has mastered the art of listening though I think it just came naturally to her. I am working on becoming a better listener.....I need a little duct tape to help me in that area...right across my kisser.

  6. Patti, The listening skill is a GIFT I think... I 'guess' that one can learn to listen---but the true care-givers in this life (who truly care for others more than themselves) are always good listeners.

    I do think that people do ask questions --but sometimes don't stick around long enough to want to hear the answers. I have a good friend like that. She's constantly moving on to the next thing in my mind---and she really doesn't want to listen. All she can do is TALK. Life to her is ALL about HER. I love her--but she does drive me crazy at times.

    I also know that there are some people that I don't ask "How are you?" to... They are NEVER fine ---and sometimes I don't want to hear all of their "poor me woos".... Am I bad?????? ha

    Great post!!!
    Hugs to you,

  7. I really enjoyed your post...I'm a quiet listener...but sometimes an interruptor. Did you know silent and listen are spelled with the same letters...on my side bar I have...Be silent and listen.

    I was at Pat-Arkansas's blog and followed her here.

  8. Pat
    Working really does make us a better listener at least if you want to be good at your job.
    I have the same problem with Mighty. His complete attention spoils me for the two legged conversationalists.

    With stutters, you want so much to help but I guess the right thing would be to ask if they want the help.
    I know now days when I am searching for a once familiar word (this is an age infirmity), I am grateful when someone comes up with the lost word for me.
    Too bad there isn't a Listening 101taught in school.

    I am laughing for you are doing what I usually want to do. I'd talk to you though neither of us could probably finish a sentence. Laughing of course.

    Ah at least yours was congential. Think the rest of us are learned yackers. The old saying that the ears close when the mouth opens is so true. Me too needing work.

    How are you??? Now we are caught up socially. Welcome and thank you so much for stopping by TNS.

    You were lucky to have found one. I know I was and Jeanne" was one of those naturals also. The rest of us have to work at it. Darn. Why is everything always work.

    I know I am wierd but I ask because I am unclear about something they are saying and want to understand. I know about the other kind of question asker though.They do give us mental exercise don't they.
    I am always surprised when you casually ask "How are you" of an almost stranger and get a run down of their prescription list, new pains,and are informed which child is causing the most grief. Good thing I am retired and in no hurry.

    Welcome to TNS and I am glad you followed Pat. Did not know that about silent and listen--Love it-- and it is so true. Glad to meet a fellow interruptor.

  9. Next time someone says, "How are you?" try replying, "Compared to what?" and see what they do.

  10. I think I'm a good listener although I have a terrible habit of silent interruption - I often finish the person's story in my head as they continue - not sure where that comes from

    I love to listen to children. And animals - they communicate so purely.

  11. Betty
    Now that will be fun. Don't think I will try it on a stranger though.

    Interesting. I wonder if you ever reach different endings but I suppose if you do it a lot, you are pretty good at reading them. Kind of like reading the last page of a novel.

  12. I have been known to interrupt, but it is usually with people who are too darn slow in their delivery - I get impatient with long pauses and ....ers...ums.....uhs.....I know it isn't nice, but I can't help it. I do talk a lot. Mr. kenju tells me that when I meet with a bride and or her mother, I do 90% of the talking. I have to. I have to ask them questions and listen to the answers. If they have no idea what they want, I have to question them until I have a clear idea, or clear enough that I can write a proposal.

  13. kenju
    In your business, you have to ask questions and by your own admission, you also have to listen. Seems to me you have both covered. Truthfully, I don't know how you deal with the bridezillas.

  14. I think people consider me a good listener...and an empathetic one, too...But there certainly are times when I need s good listener too, and I know a few, Thank God....Still, there are some people who have to explain another person'e behavior, not allowing that all you want to do is be able to express what YOU feel about that person--no explanations required, necessarily....
    I agree with you that truly "listening" is an Art! And we could certainly use more good listeners. And, truly listening doesn't mean there is no exchange of ideas....I think one has to be sensitive to when the other person really just needs to be advice, no explanations.

  15. OOLOH
    Well said Naomi and you brought up a point we unfortunately don't think enough about. Most people have that special listener in their life but who listens to the listener?
    You are right, a good listener is not a silent face that nods at the right time. They allow you to say what you need, know what you need to hear and they help carry or lighten the load.
    We need to treat them like the treasures they are.

  16. Happy Birthday Patti! If you find that 12 step program, let me know?
    I want to get Hubby in, my Aunt also. They are the worlds worst CD-er's around! HA!You are only promised this moment, find fascination in it!

  17. Thanks Carol, I do think Listening 101 should be taught in school.