Just the other day I was walking through Walmart when an older couple I had never met before approached me. It is standard in small towns that if you make eye contact, it is natural to speak. The woman smiled and spoke to me. Thinking I had heard, "Hi there," I smiled back, said "hi there" back and kept walking.
It wasn't until I had gone around a corner that it dawned on me what she had actually said. She hadn't just greeted me, she had said, "Nice hair."
I absolutely do not have many good hair days so I wasn't even thinking along those lines. Embarrassed by brushing off her compliment, I tracked her down. I explained that I misheard her and thanked her for the lovely compliment. She just smiled sweetly and said she loved the natural white color. That pretty much made my day and I almost missed it by not listening.
This next part is reworked from 2009.
That started me thinking about the art of listening. Yes it is an art and a skill, which too few people including me have not 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 take a breath. Then they can leap in with their similar yet better story or their superior way to have handled a similar situation.
Unfortunately, the "impatient listener" is me in a nut shell. If something is brought up by a speaker 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.
Fortunately, most people fall somewhere in between but then there are the masters 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. 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', a dear friend, was the consummate listener. I had seen her mesmerize men who always complemented her on how easy she was to talk with. In actuality, the men had done almost all of the talking without realizing it. She just gently quizzed them and somehow made them more interesting than even they realized.
She did this not only with men but with everyone--- strangers, women and children. 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. Approaching 80 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 you.