The Art of Hearing
There’s this guy I like to hang out with. I’ve actually known him most of my life and was extremely pleased when we recently reconnected. At the risk of revealing his identity, all I’ll say is he was a high school sweetheart.
This friend has had quite a colorful and exciting life since we graduated from high school. In fact, I could probably listen to him for hours as he talks about what he has done in the last 30 years or so; everything I’ve missed out on, the people he’s met, the jobs he’s had, his training, education and everything in between. He happens to be a fabulous storyteller, but there was one story that I didn’t pay enough attention to.
Figuring that out made me realize that sometimes people don’t speak the same language. And in order to understand what they’re saying you’ll have to really hear them. There’s more to it then listening; you can still listen and daydream or scroll through your cell phone. To truly hear what someone is telling you there has to be an awareness of how they communicate.
My friend often communicates through stories and as the fire started sparking between us he repeated one story several times. Sometimes more of the story would catch my attention, other times I would ask questions then one day as we were on our way out and he was telling me a portion of the same story I blurted out: “Why do you keep telling me you’re not interested in getting married. I’m not trying to get married…”
I sort of laughed, but he got a slightly irritated look. So, as the ding-ding-ding of the warning bell rang in my ear, I asked several specific questions about the story. He answered them, finished his story and we went on with the evening.
Now, as most of you know, a woman doesn’t simply move on with the evening. Her mind is still on the information she received. The information he shared equaled: ‘The reason I’m not really available is ________’
You can fill in the blank. The actual reason doesn’t make a difference because unavailable is unavailable regardless of what the reason is.
Now I could have continued with the way our renewed friendship was progressing. I knew him well enough to know that he still had feelings for me and more could possibly develop. But in the logical part of my mind I calculated what the chances were for him to choose to be with me once his situation was resolved or if, in fact, he could return to his old situation.
The answer was easy and hard. I’ve always wanted that “high school sweethearts reunited” thing and we definitely had unfinished business. But his current unfinished business didn’t include me regardless of any effort I put into it.
Had I not heard what he said and asked pertinent questions he could still be happily enjoying my company while I blindly enjoyed his and then been blindsided by his reality if it didn’t turn out in my favor. And, what do you think he would have said?
“But I told you.”
As you pursue new relationships or work on current ones, don’t just listen to what your partner has to say – be sure to actually hear them.