Friday, August 07, 2009


I want to be a better listener.

Don't you hate it when you're talking to someone, and you can tell their mind is elsewhere? They're looking around at other people, or checking their cell phone, or interrupting and changing the subject, or something like that.

Well, all too often that person is me.

I came across something in my reading the other day that inspired me. Somewhat surprisingly, it's about Sigmund Freud.
"A man once said of Sigmund Freud, 'He struck me so forcibly that I shall never forget him. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You've no idea what it meant to be listened to like that.'"
When I was a kid, I didn't feel listened to. I could always tell that my parents' minds were somewhere else when I was talking to them. They would give me a perfunctory "um-hmm" now and then, but I grew up feeling quite alone much of the time. So I have an extra bit of sensitivity to being heard but not listened to.

I know a man who has a special gift of listening. It's my wife's Uncle Tom. Suzy and I are always struck, when we are around him, with how well he tunes into people. He looks them intently in the eye, asks excellent questions, shows unfeigned interest, and gives them undivided attention. When Tom listens to me, I feel loved and celebrated.

You've no idea what it means to be listened to like that.

I want to be a better listener.

1 comment:

orangejack said...

Reminds me of "We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Not being listened to is akin to the silence of friends. I relate to your experiences very well.