The (Abandoned) Art of Listening

Being an Artist, Philosophy of Life, Quotes, The Artist Life


You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time – M. Scott Peck

For awhile, this blog post has been on my mind. It is a topic that I feel is very pertinent in our society because our culture is so very opposed to it. Which is ironic considering that this is the age of social networking and updating statuses and friending and being connected. We strive very hard to connect but it’s an open secret that a lot of people feel that we’re even more disconnected due largely to social networking sites. In the age of media soundbites, sharing our thoughts in 160 characters or less, and responding in texting lingo (k?), everyone seems to be in a hurry and I believe because everyone is in a hurry, no one listens. 

Red berries

When was the last time you had a conversation without being interrupted? When was the last time you held your tongue versus cutting someone off? Can two people even really open up toward one another anymore and actually feel like they have equally gotten to express themselves? I raise these questions because a long time ago I became aware and convicted of the fact that I tend to interrupt people. I am an exuberant type person and I have a lot to say therefore I must talk, talk, talk, all the time in order to get out everything I want to say. I’m not sure when I became aware of this exactly but I did and then slowly I started to not speak as much and slowly I became aware of many times within circles of family or friends where someone would get cut off by another person and the conversation would never circle back to them where they could finish their thought. I felt that I was the victim of this occurrence a myriad times myself. I would try to share something but someone would talk over me or cut me off and I, in an attempt to be cordial, polite, and nice would oblige them by not talking and letting them speak, however I noticed no one would ever oblige me the same courtesy. It would seem that everytime I would try to speak I would get talked over and because this has happened to me a plethora of times I’ve noticed that it happens to people a lot and no one seems to be bothered by it much.

“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” ~ Alfred Brendel

I love the quote by Alfred Brendel, “The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” How perfect and true is that statement! If you rearrange the letters in listen, you can create the word silent. It is a very accurate statement because in order for one person to express him or herself, another person has to remain attentive and silent while they speak. This is one reason why I have come to favor one-on-one times with a friend versus a group setting. I just find that it is hard to feel like I have gotten to learn that much about a person in group settings. And usually I won’t find out anything about someone in a group setting because people that aren’t talking the loudest get marginalized. I also think to a degree people favor group settings versus one-on-one because people fear dead air in a conversation. I overcame this fear awhile ago, I view silence between two people as an opportunity to reflect on the last topic and see if there is anything either I or who I am speaking with want to add. This also serves as a chance to think about introducing an entirely new topic instead of letting conversation flow naturally from one topic to another.

Red berries 2

I could write about my frustrations and thoughts on listening and being listened to all day long.  It’s become a very important topic for me;  it is like a pet peeve except far more serious then just an irritation. For example, when someone is convicted of murder it’s either 1st degree, 2nd degree etc. I view interrupting and talking over people as a first degree offense. It puts you on the fast track for me to not like you and seek to avoid you. Yes, I know it’s crazy to compare interrupting someone to 1st degree murder but hey it’s an analogy, leave it at that. Alas, let me not bore you with my laments but instead challenge you to be a person that listens. And here is why; “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~Karl A. Menniger.

Green berries

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~Karl A. Menniger

How aptly does that put what happens when we feel that we are listened to and have expressed ourselves? Don’t you want to be a person that draws other people to them? Don’t you want to be a person that makes people unfold and expand? Then listen to people. It is so simple and yet it’s rare to find someone that does it. I really think this quote needs it’s own post because of how fierce it is! Because of how I feel about this subject and because of how marvelous that quote is I have decided to start a renaissance of listening and I invite you to join. Decide to be someone that listens to the people around them. It is magnetic, strange, and creative as Menniger said so perfectly. Maybe that’s why this is so important to me, as a creative person listening to people is an art that society has abandoned. Hence, the renaissance. I feel like Les Miserable’s “Do You Hear the People Sing” is playing in the background. Haha! So in the words of Les Mis, will you join in my crusade?  Let’s listen to our friends and family. Let’s tactfully point out to people we know that they cut people off. There’s no reason to embarrass someone when all you’re trying to do is help them. Most people aren’t even aware that they do it. Many people are immune to the way that we converse that everyone plays the talk over people game because the only way to be heard is to talk the loudest and oftenest. Let’s change that. Let’s listen. As creative people let’s listen to others,  it’s a creative force after all. And isn’t that fierce?



P.S. If you read this entire thing you are fabulous!

Feeling Weird

Books, My Friends

How was your Valentine’s weekend? (I realize that was last weekend but I drafted this back then!) I spent the weekend at a hotel convention center in St. Louis and literally sat around and did nothing but read a book by my pastor called Weird and take care of my 6 month old. It was probably the first do-nothing-vacation that I’ve ever partaken in. Generally, when I go somewhere I go somewhere. If there’s a museum or a monument or something significant at a new place that I’m visiting I make sure to go everywhere and see everything and take lots of pictures. Then, of course, I come back from a trip feeling like I need a vacation! I’m addicted to being productive. I can’t sit still. I cannot not be doing something so let me tell you sitting around a hotel was a little strange and quite an accomplishment. A friend told me that the St. Louis Art Museum is free to the public! I checked out their website and they have Monets. I did a happy dance while surfing their website! The hotel I was at was 20 minutes away and I didn’t go. Completely out of character for me! But at the same time a weekend of doing nothing was exactly what I needed. It’s hard for me to relax, I’m a high-strung person so it’s hard for me to just chill. When I have a mellow mood people ask me what’s wrong which is so dang annoying because 95% of the time when I’m talking 90 miles an hour all people do is ask me to shut up. Anyway, my hubby and I didn’t do anything lovey dovey for Valentines Day. I don’t even think he ever said Happy Valentines Day to me, nor I to him. We have the type of relationship where you say “I love you” everyday so who needs to be over the top about it on one day of the year due to societal pressure?

Normally, I bring 20 books on a road trip and read half of one and bits and pieces of another or I rarely read any! But this time, I brought two books and focused on one until I finished it!!! And then I started the next one! The book I read is as was mentioned above called Weird. I love it! I believe Dr. Seus is credited as saying, “We go through life with our weirdness and when we find someone who’s weirdness is compatible with ours we join forces and call it love” I’m good with weird. I’ve never aspired to fit in or be normal. I roll my eyes at that nonsense. I see groups and people and mentally say I’m glad I’m not you. Sounds harsh? No, I’m happy to be me. I think it’s funny how our culture is obsessed with improving people’s “self-esteem” and yet when you find a genuinely confident, comfortable in their own skin type of person our society calls them narcissistic, bratty, snotty, or “they think they’re better than everyone else.” But that’s my next blog post. The thesis of Weird is simple; Normal isn’t working. Everyone desires to be “normal” few people aspire to be weird. People don’t like the label weird. But what is normal? Is it broke, stressed, too busy, a failing marriage, addictions or bad habits, over weight or obese, no values? If that’s what you want to be then be normal. The book has sections specifically dedicated to Time, Money, Relationships, Sex, Values. I definitely need to improve my time. I’m overcommitted. I expect to magically find time for the things I really care about versus organizing things in a way where I can focus my time on what I truly what to devote myself to. I won’t go in depth on the other sections. Pick up the book yourself. It’s easy to find.

Fiercely weird,