Two ears are better than one mouth

Published 6:43 pm Saturday, July 28, 2012

I am an interrupter. I admit it, so that should be the first step towards recovery, right?

I love to talk, love to express myself and I even talk in my sleep. Nobody has to tell me this because I have talked so loudly at times that I have woken myself up.

I have been told that I love to hear my own voice, but that’s not entirely true. I just love to talk and be engaged in conversation and I love to listen to what others have to say. The only problem is I get over zealous and interject my own thoughts or feelings.

I have been working on this, as of late, and trying to stop myself from blurting out that tantalizing tidbit that is sitting on the tip of my tongue. While in conversation, I try to be cognizant of the other person’s needs and wants. What do I truly need to say and what can I hold onto until my turn comes? While I try to be quiet and listen, my mind starts to wander as I try desperately to hold onto that morsel I want to share. That is when the shift happens from my being a good listener to just “hearing” what a person is saying.

Some of this refraining shows on my face, possibly because, at times, I bite my tongue so hard it bleeds. Then the “Are you OKs?” start and I have to say, “Yes, just fine,” and then the whole conversation turns in a different direction.

“Ummm, what were we talking about?”

We forget where we were or what we were talking about before the other person checked on my well being. By now, the whole conversation has turned to muck and I didn’t even get to share what I was thinking because I forgot.

I want to be a good listener as well as communicator. Being a good and patient listener helps you see the world through someone else’s eyes. It helps you to have a better understanding of someone or something else and it  “enhances your capacity for empathy” (I got that out of a self-help article that said there were 16 steps to becoming a good listener). I stalled out on step two; step one said it takes “practice” and step two said to be a good listener you “mustn’t interrupt.” Well I have the attention span of a gnat so practice is out of the question and I have already confessed to interrupting. Darn, I am doomed.

So, my apologies to those whose words or feelings I inadvertently stepped on in trying desperately to share my own words and feelings. It wasn’t intentional. Had I realized it at the time, I’m sure I would have stopped. While I am a work-in-progress, have patience with me. I am doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

I guess that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk.

A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.