Much has been said about our fight/flight response, hunter/gatherer days in primitive times. Yet I imagine there must’ve been hours back then between sabre tooth tiger attacks when our ancestors were just listening, observing and appreciating their surroundings. No one was talking because language had not yet been invented.
By nature I am a Listener and several people have told me I am a good one. I like that. As our society becomes increasingly entrenched in media and technology, it is a skill not so valued; lost to distraction. People are talking faster with less attention so traditional dialog is disappearing. Often when I am trying to have a conversation with one person, we experience an interruption by a device, external sources or that person’s distracted thoughts.
I’m grateful that I studied communication in college and that as a writer and wordsmith from toddlerhood, I am keenly aware of language patterns. Being raised on the universal language of Kindness (if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all/be kind to others/the Golden Rule) is engraved in my heart and on my tongue. That language is making a cultural shift, giving way to one I don’t speak or understand. Words to describe experiences of “unfairness” dominate conversation now, backed by anger. Words like “stupid”, “idiotic”, “lawsuit” are prevalent; phrases like “That sucks,” “Can you believe it,” “That’s bullshit” are common. The media reflect that with gloom and doom statistics, crimes, guilty verdicts, tweets. Sponsoring commercials promote medications whose side effects are going to kill us, or lawyers who will get us cash for our victimization. Mistrust runs rampant. Labeled 20 years ago by a psychiatrist has me especially cognizant of the adjectives that formerly were whispered and used to describe individuals, “Crazy, Bipolar, Whack Job, Nuts.” Now those terms are used openly in everyday language to describe everyone, situations, our systems and government.
I recently read a quote that said, “Gossip dies when it falls on wise ears.” So does all negativity. We are all capable of making a choice of what to say, listen to and repeat. Smarter than our GPS’s, we can pause to recalculate and attune to a dialog of positivity and revert to the language of Kindness. We have the ability to turn off the news, listen to music and redirect conversation from what is wrong in our lives (complaining) to what is right (gratitude); to pay attention to compliments, individual achievements, good news, stories and the sound of laughter. Share those and see how much happier you become.
Through quick texts, email, Facebook, phone calls, and constant connection, we have over communicated ourselves into a frenzy of fleetingly emotionless moments. “Undivided attention” is a phrase from the past. Our children will not teach it to theirs because they don’t know what it is. We have the power to change that, one talk at a time.
Go beyond that. Redirect conversation by encouraging others, inquiring with interest, celebrating victories and especially listening device free with enthusiasm when someone is sharing their dreams.
Be a Listener/Observer for a day, have fun and truly hear what people are saying. You will have the pleasure of noticing that people get so caught up in their need to comment they will not notice your amusement. It’s a blast when they mutter so fast that they forget what they were talking about. But the most fun of all is when they speak so quickly that their minds cannot keep up and they rattle on for minutes, sometimes hours, without uttering one complete sentence. In tenth grade Honors English class we called these run-ons. Somehow the concept jumped from the page to verbalization. Only we Listeners and Observers notice. And we love our speaking peeps anyway!
From the Sanctuary:
Today I had the pleasure of watching and listening to my little brother passionately play his coveted drums with his band. There I met two friendly women who were retired. One told me that it took her a good five years to slow down after working. So I came home to the Sanctuary with that in mind, taking to the creek a blanket, notebook, and pledge that it would not take me that long to relax. For 1½ hours, I practiced. I lay on my back and listened and observed just as my ancestors did. I enjoyed the “screen” of ever changing cloud patterns, willow canopy, birds, butterflies, spider webs, a peaceful perched mourning dove, three crows, a swarm of gnats, bees and especially the silence. All were awe inspiring, slowing me down. Instantly.
Love, Joy and Kindness, Mary