If you mention you’re slated for some scary surgery next week, they’ll jump in with a story about an operation they had 10 years ago, which, they assure you, was much trickier than yours.
Many years ago, I recall telling someone I was recovering from radiation therapy for cancer. This person heard the “c” word and couldn’t resist telling me a harrowing tale about a relative, who had a similar treatment and then died shortly after.
Another less-than-loving conversational technique is spinning out solutions, instead of listening.
Sometimes you just want to lay your burdens on another person’s shoulders. You want to tell them about your week, which included a trip to the ER with a weird throbbing pain in your foot, a water heater that died and sent a stream across your hardwood floors and a cat that persists in attacking your feet.
You long to hear the golden words, “What a tough week!” — rather than recommendations for a doctor, a floor guy and a trainer who tames felines.
In St. James’ Gospel, he notes, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Sometimes it’s really difficult listening to another person without succumbing to the temptation to interrupt them, since we have this great story we’re dying to share — or perhaps there’s a factual error we feel compelled to correct.
This is the time to quiet our minds, breathe deeply and show that we’re truly present.
Ecclesiastes describes friendship this way: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
Sometimes people fall down because they feel life’s woes are crushing them — and rescuing them means letting them unburden themselves, while we remain silent.
My neighbor, Ruth, became a treasured listener after my husband died. As a widow, she understood the deep emotional pain and gave me the great gift of her attention when grief became unbearable.
What about God’s voice? He’s also trying to get through to us, but often we block him out because he speaks to us in silence, and we may be soaking up the news, gabbing on the phone, checking texts or glued to a Netflix show, like yours truly.
Even if we sometimes don’t listen, God is always there, as the book of Revelation assures us: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
In the end, the key to loving another person is the same as loving God — we must give others the gift of silence and full attention. Only then can we truly hear them and cherish them as we love ourselves.
Lorraine has written eight books, available online. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.