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Just Listen


There is an elderly Hispanic gentleman who is one of the clients where I work.  We helped him file a disability claim.  During the lengthy process he called in several times to ask questions, seek assistance, or just to touch base. After receiving a favorable decision from the judge on his case, he called in to express his gratitude for our assistance in helping him navigate the Social Security maze.

Mr. G has "old school" manners, insisting on calling us Mr. or Mrs __, rather than by our first names, always saying please and thank you, and always apologizing for taking up our time.  Mr G likes to talk, and he likes to take his time about it, obviously thinking about each word used and each thought he wishes to convey.  If multiple phone lines are ringing and everyone is busy, it is tempting to try to cut him short, and push him ahead to the finish line.  The funny/neat thing about him is that he really can't be hurried.  If you try to redirect the conversation or speed up his train of thought, he will pause and then continue right where he left off.  Some of the other staff here find this exasperating and if by chance they take his call, they are quick to pass it off to me with much rolling-of-eyes. 

Mr. G has taught me patience... and to LISTEN.  All he wants is for someone to take the time to listen politely so that he can be heard and understood.  He is an intelligent man, and obviously a deep thinker.  After awhile he realized that I would not try to rush him, so now he always asks for me when he calls (more eye-rolling from other staff :-).   I don't mind a bit, in fact one day I complimented him on his manners and how refreshing it is to find someone like that in this day and age.  It pleased him to no end, and now when he calls he includes even more pleasantries in our conversation.  We aren't talking about a thirty minute conversation, maybe ten minutes at most. I figure that if I can't take ten minutes out of my busy day to listen respectfully to an elder, something is wrong.  And you know what?  I find that by the time we have finished our conversation at slow pace, I am breathing easier and feeling more relaxed too! 

Recently Papa Bear and I were watching the movie "We Bought A Zoo".  One of the best comments made during the show was "The secret to talking is listening."  So true!  I love to talk and ramble on, and of course I love to ask lots of questions, but if I really want to have a meaningful exchange with someone else I need to listen, and I'm actually a pretty good listener too! Everyone has a story to tell, you can learn so much from them if you will just take the time. If we all slowed down the pace of our lives just a bit and took time to really listen to each other it would be a much nicer world.

25 comments:

  1. I love the quote from "We Bought A Zoo." I loved the movie so much, I wanted to buy one after that, but true, listening is as important as talking.

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    1. I loved the movie too, my daughter encouraged us to rent it and we ended up really liking it, despite some all too familiar territory for my Papa Bear who lost his previous wife to cancer. It was truly well done, and this little gem of philosophy was the frosting on the cake. I love to collect bits of unexpected wisdom!

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  2. Me too, me too! I love that quote from the movie. I'm copying it to a word document because I know I have a tendency to talk, talk, talk when Devin and I are just beginning our conversations. I need to remember to reign it in and listen.

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    1. Papa Bear would tell you a story about the first many hours we spent getting to know each other via late nite cellphone conversations, Elsie. He actually had a little bell he would ding to signal that it was time for me to come up for air and let him talk for awhile! I was just so excited in getting to really know him, that my heart overflowed and words poured forth! :-) Seriously though, most people long for someone to just listen, not to problem solve, not to evaluate or judge, just to hear what they have to say and maybe offer a bit of empathy. We want desperately to know someone cares! I'm getting better at it as the years go on. :-)

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    2. That's funny - a bell =P

      We stayed up late last night talking and I actually thought of this post. He is mentally working some stuff out, mulling things through and my first instinct was to counsel and instead I stayed quiet and he thought I fell asleep because it was so unlike me LOL But, I told him no, I saw something on blogger and he appreciated it =)

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    3. If I didn't interrupt fairly frequently in a drawn out conversation with Papa Bear he would be certain I had fallen asleep or died! LOL He is very detail oriented and sometimes I get restless waiting for th finish. Then I feel bad because I was impatient. I need to work on focusing on the present interaction and not the 20 other things I'm still needing/wanting to do. I'm delighted the thought of ringing bell helped you converse with Devin and let him figure things out while he talked. Great strategy! :-)

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  3. When we take the time to listen: to others, to music, to the ocean, to our hearts- we are taking time to be in the moment, to be present.

    Thank you for this reminder!

    (aren't we lucky to be paid to just listen and empower others!)

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    1. That's a great way of looking at it Chrissy, and a lovely reminder of what I do love about my job... the people I connect with! Sometimes the paper pile is overwhelming, but it's just a necessary means to an end, which is helping people regain a bit of quality and dignity in their lives. Thank YOU for the reminder!

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  4. I agree with you so much, Josie. So many people these days seem to have lost the art of listening. In fact, I find many people talk over you and never let you get a word in. Everyone is in such a rush, even in conversation. It's quite frustrating. If ewe listened more it WOULD be a better world!

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    1. Yes, Selma, life really does feel like a pressure cooker... run, run, run, hurry, hurry! How I wish we could put the brakes on and make everything move slower. What's the point of all the madness if we never take the time to enjoy one another's company?

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  5. Reading this to my mind to the nursing home some of the residents will just start talking to me or mum and of course we listen and smile and nod it makes them feel good I think to see someone who is willing to just listen to them for a few minutes.........

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    1. I worked in a small nursing home many years ago, Jo-Anne and the lonliness there was horrible. So many folks never got any company and family never bothered to call. It is kind of you to be patient and visit with the folks that approach you when you visit your mum, everyone needs a smile and a bit of attention!

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  6. This just made me smile so much - not just inside, but actually smile. I've only recently noticed this, maybe I was doing it all along, but everyone's posts make me sit here and smile at the screen. And sometimes, as in this case, make me tear up just a bit. He sounds like such a sweet man and I love it that he found someone kind to listen to him. I also love how he won't be redirected lol... so sweet! Now that his case is closed, I wonder if he'll manage to make a call or two to you somehow - it sounds like he's made a friend.

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    1. I find myself doing that often too, Lady in Red! Papa Bear will look over at me where I sit with my laptop and ask me what I'm smiling about and I wasn't even aware that I was, I was just enjoying all the good reading and catching up with blog friends. It's a wonderful neighborhood here, isn't it?! :-) And yes, Mr G has called a couple times recently, once just to get the name of our atty's parents so he can write them and tell them what a fine daughter they raised! How sweet!

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    1. Thank's Annmarie, I have to remind myself every day to slow down and listen to people, we are so busy at work and there is so much to do, but really, it only takes a few seconds longer to stop what I'm doing and give them my full attention and a few words of kindness. It's important!

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  8. When my dad was alive, it would bother me to no end when people would show up and he would shut down whatever he was doing to sit and have a coffee with them and talk. Often, that lost time would have to be made up with long hours into the night.

    After he died, i began to realize, that was something they appreciated about him and that it was in fact a good quality. I hadn't really even been a coffee drinker before that but it's something i tried to adopt and carry on from him. You're right, people feel good about having someone take the time to hear what they have to say. That and now i'm addicted to coffee so any excuse to stop for one is fine by me. :)

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    1. The older my Dad got the more he loved to coffee with his friends, Ken, he looked forward to it so much! I'm not a coffee drinker, but there is nothing I enjoy more than a sit down for a visit, be it in person, over the phone, or even texting or online. I resent that I have so few hours free each evening to keep up with friends, I feel like I don't begin to stay in contact as I'd like. Always so much to do, but I try hard to make time.

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  9. A very long time ago, when I was in college, I went home with Bing (my then roomie) for Spring Break. We visited with her elderly uncle and his wife and when when the wife went out of the room to get more cookies, he looked as us sweetly and said, "I love the sound of my wife's voice."

    I thought then that I would never marry someone until I loved the sound of his/her voice. And now...I do love the sound of her voice.

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    1. What a beautiful sentiment, Maria! Knowing where Bing hails from I'm just betting her voice is wonderfully smooth and rich! Papa Bear has a deep voice with a Texan accent (yes, there is one) and I fell in love with it from the first night we talked. His singing voice is so amazingly beautiful it brings tears to my eyes!

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  10. Such a powerful and beautiful post Josie. Thanks for sharing -- and for listening to Mr. G.

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    1. Thank you, Louise! Listening to Mr. G is my pleasure!

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  11. Yes, I deal with this everyday! Good job!

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    1. I know you do Kristi, and we both know how draining it can be to hear so many truly sad stories, we we aren't in a position to really help all that much. But kindness and even just listening goes a long way. Someday we all need to know that someone at least cares!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)