Talking About Listening
Good listeners may be as rare, perhaps rarer, than good talkers. Most of us, in our friendships, seem to want more to tell than be told. We see, we use friends as an audience – and friends in their turn often do the same with us. Many conversations aren’t really conversations at all, but merely alternating monologues. Was it Nora Ephron who said that there is no listening, only waiting, waiting, of course, to do one’s own talking. Winston Churchill, that most brilliant of talkers, is said to have been a poor listener; Goethe, himself a dab hand at talk, had the reputation of being a careful listener. (Friendship, by Joseph Epstein)
My experience has been that when someone tells me, “I have to talk to you”, that is exactly what they mean: They have to talk. Listening is another story.
Isn’t it strange that one of the most important verses we say in our prayers is, “Shema” or Hear/Listen? We put much effort into the way we say Shema. How much effort do we put into listening to ourselves and actually hearing what we are saying?
The lesson of the opening word of the Shema is to learn how to be as skilled at listening as we are at talking.
Let’s hear it for the Shema!
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