The gift of listening

I am doing a course in Listening Skills. I’m not the trainer, I’m the recipient and that makes me the worst critic. We didn’t get off to a good start when I arrived at the venue, along with a few others, and there was no signposting. When we eventually found the room the trainer had her head down, in her equipment, and didn’t acknowledge us. Then it started 30 minutes late! I nearly left. I find training so slow and don’t understand how a lot of trainers expect people to listen endlessly. And sit. After two hours I asked for ‘a two minute comfort break’ but was told to wait til after the next exercise. So much for practising what they preach!

There are 13 women on the course and one man. That’s a laugh as who does most listening?! The man obviously feels uneasy because his interventions consist of pointing out what might be wrong and helping the trainer with her equipment malfunctions. So far I have done an evening and a full day yesterday. There’s an evening to finish off this week. Then I pass. Yippee!

Why did I want to do a listening course? Well I’ve thought about doing something for a while. I think because it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to somebody and I dont believe I’m very good. I get distracted or give advice or make judgements. And often want to wind people up to make them speak faster. I wish I’d listened more to my Dad. But because he was always so grumpy I found it hard. Now I realise he was grumpy because he was unhappy and I might have helped if I’d really listened. It always came round to the War and I switched off. Of course in the 40s there wa no such thing as post-traumatic stress and counselling. On this day I am reminded that my Grandad sold my Dad’s clothes because he didn’t think he would return. And he lost his mother whilst he was at sea. When he came home he said she was hardly mentioned. I can’t bring my Dad back but I can try to do for others.

In the exercises we do I have found it hard to listen, really listen, witout commenting. The firs time my partner used a real situation and I listened. Not feeling obliged to comment or ‘solve the problem’ makes it easier. I said little, just made noises to let her know I was listening. At the end she thanked me profusely and said how much better she felt.

I don’t think its just being heard. I think it’s being given the time and space to articulate your thoughts and come to your own conclusions. I do believe that most of us know the answers to our problems deep inside. When Stewart was in hospital and things were grim I was fortunate in having good listeners around me. I very quickly learned who to turn to for different reasons. Most of the time I didn’t want advice. And because I am not ‘feelings driven’ I didn’t want to talk about them. Not that I submerged them, how could I? I just didn’t want to be paralysed by negativity and I wanted the girls to see that everything would be alright. Which it was and is. Because people listened.

I was thinking about all this during the priest’s homily this morning. (Yes I know!). At the moment the teaching feels a a bit process like. Mechanistic. And i wish they wouldn’t constantly use our name, it drives me mad! Particularly when they get it wrong and call me ‘Christine’. But there are some really useful bits. And I like how they ended yesterday…

Every meeting and sharing of people is an exchange of gifts. My gift is me; your gift is you. We are gifts to each other.

I was telling Stewart about the course ans what I was learning. After about 5 minutes he said ‘They’re odd things to be learning on a knitting course!’ Aaarrgghh!

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