This weekend my husband and I were having a conversation about moose. We were naming all the famous moose we knew from our childhood. We came up with two names. Morris the Moose was our first famous moose. We knew there was at least one other moose that had a sidekick named Rocky, but we could not remember what his name was. My eleven year old daughter, who up until now, had just been listening to her father and I; piped up and said “Periwinkle, it was Periwinkle and Rocky.” It was then I realized she was talking about Bullwinkle. Bullwinkle and Rocky. I informed her that Periwinkle was not the famous sidekick, but Bullwinkle was. We all had a good laugh at that one. Then later on in the day, my son told me that, “Daddy said I have amnesia, Mommy.” Me: “Amnesia, buddy?” Son: “Yes, right here on my arm. He said I had it from when I was a baby.” Me, looking at the rough patch on his arm: “That is eczema, not amnesia.” Son: “Oh” My son, the same one with amnesia, had a well child visit this morning at the doctor. Being the stay-at-home parent, I was the one who drove and also brought along his two younger sisters. They often get restless while just sitting there, but today I found some Mentos in my coat pocket to feed them and help pass the time. As we were leaving my daughter kept asking for “more Combos” to eat. I finally figured out she was talking about Mentos. Mentos. Combos. Its all the same, right? Eczema and amnesia. Periwinkle and Bullwinkle. Combos and Mentos. Simple terminology mix-ups. It is quite humorous when children are the culprits and adults can have a laugh their expense. Wish I could say it was just my children. Usually I am the one that is guilty of this. In my home we have a name for this, deemed Steffisms, by my husband. Steffisms are those commonly used words or phrases that I mess up on a regular basis. For example, at one point years ago we were having issues with some animal chewing our door frame in the middle of the night. You could hear the animal when it was eating the wood. It was loud and distracting, enough to wake us up from our slumber. One night I finally was able to see what the critter was and woke up my husband. Excitedly, I woke him up and told him, “there is a porcicoon on our side deck eating the door.” Porcicoon= cross between a porcupine and raccoon. My husband enjoys sharing my mix-ups with others, often with a laugh on my behalf.
My husband has told me numerous times to write a book on “Steffisms” and it would be a bestseller; knowing he would be the only one to buy it. He knows what I am saying. He knows my way with the English language and how I commonly butcher it. My problem is not the lack of knowledge, but speaking too quickly without pausing to think what I want to say.
I am an impulsive speaker. I have had “open mouth insert foot” moments many times over the course of my life. I do not like this problem. I have so much to say and with lack of patience I rush to get all the words out. I know what I want to say, but the words come out as a jumbled confusing mess.
Conversation is a two-way street. One must listen and one must talk. It takes two. Being impatient and failing to listen does not make for very meaningful conversation. And I have walked away from conversations feeling like I was just a sounding board or somebody to vent their frustrations to. The best conversations are the ones where I have felt like I was listened to. When you respect somebody you tend to listen to what they have to say, even if that conversation is about nothing earth-shattering. It is about making a connection.
Becoming a better listener
How well do you listen to others? What does your body language say? How do others feel after they walk away from a conversation with you? Heavy-hearted and burdened? Or lifted up and connected?
Tips for being a better listener:
- Make eye contact.
- Stop what you are doing within safe perimeters, of course.
- Shift your body in the general direction of the talker. Body language is important.
- Listen actively.
- Pay attention to details.
- Do not interrupt.
- Don’t assume you know is going to be said next.
- Be empathetic and understanding.
- Have an open mind when listening, even if you have differing opinions.
- Ask thought-provoking questions.
- Be patient.
Poor listening diminishes the other person, while good listening invites them to exist, and to matter. In James 1:19 it says: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Too often we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. Changing how we listen won’t happen overnight, but it can happen and you will get better with time.
“When you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” Jiddu Krishnamurti –