Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Better a Learner than a Listener be

I swear I have had just about enough of life's little instruction book and the trending advise de jour that floats about cyberspace and media like an unwelcome influenza outbreak. How to be social, How to avoid 8 social pitfalls, How to be happy, How to write, How to argue, How to sleep. and the very latest one to catch "How to listen"

Are you serious? How to Listen.

How to listen implies that everything put out there for us deserves our attention that just because you have something to say other people owe you the respect of undivided attention and appreciation. Who cares. I hear so much in a day that it is simply not possible way to listen to it all, and who wants to?

But if you have to... listening is easy.

First you filter...if you are listening, someone has your attention either with topic or urgency and I guarantee you are 'listenening' to what they have to say. The rest, the processing, assessing, retaining of information happens naturally if the information is crucial to the survival and thriving of your own life of the life of someone you love.

Imagine sitting in a Doctor's office with your sick child. Do you have to practice active listening, absolutely not, it happens because it matters there is information you need to learn.

A real skill is not listening a real skill we could all use a little 'How To" on is Learning 

Learning in my opinion is a skill far more valuable than any amount of listening. I understand this because in my life there are people who "listen" to me in the How To sense of the word (ok, not my children, but there are people) I know they are listening because they have no clue what is going on in my life. These people ask questions like "how was your weekend?" even though when the Friday "Any big plans for the weekend?" question came up, the answer was "a funeral"

Listeners have their place and I love them for it. You can tell them anything you want and be confident that they won't have any recollection of it later. There is always that 'refresh my memory' part of the social interaction program. This is great because if things don't go as planned there are no explanations you just don't bring it up again and no one is any the wiser.

Learners on the other hand are special people, rare even among our closest friends and relatives. They keep a mental cue card of what they know about you. They ask questions and file away the answers not just nod their heads and fake attentiveness. Learners are the people who run into you at the mall and ask if you are feeling better, leaving you to recall the string of status updates related to your recent flu. Learners send you messages out of the blue to check in on your progress and send you wafts of inspiration unique to your current challenges. Learners remember details and facts. Conversations with learners are void of the 'catch-up' they simply pick up where left off. Okay, learners may have stalker qualities but don't we all love that even just a little bit, to feel like people are genuinely interested in us?

Having said all of this, being a learner takes effort, it takes energy it takes an interest in someone besides yourself. It also provides rewards beyond measure. If you can encourage someone because you remember their goal, if you can celebrate someone because you know their dream, if you can comfort them when their hopes are dashed you are making real connections with people. Perhaps this is where the real appreciation of learners lies, in the knowledge that they care about things beyond their own world enough to take note.

Learners make an impact where listeners make a mark.

Gratitude to the learners in my life and to the listeners who make me appreciate the learners even more.

Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared :)