When I lived in Bogota, Colombia, I went to a cocktail party with my ex-husband and I was introduced to a man to whom I asked a few questions. He talked and I listened. I listened for maybe half an hour and then moved on. He told my ex-husband that I was such a charming person. I could not tell why, I had barely talked to him. I then discovered the great power of listening.
Life is full of talkers and listeners. People who start to tell you stories as soon as they have you on the phone and do not stop until you hang up. They are not terribly interested in you but inside of them they enjoy the fact that you are a valuable deposit for their words. They tell you interesting stories at times and sorry ones at others.
Some of us have developed the art of listening. It is like opening the vast territory of an empty space ready to be filled by others. But there is always a part of us that steps inside the talker's story and silently agrees or disagrees. A sort of inner balance that puts the talker in a place of evaluation. I listen to you and I can criticize at will with a silent question or agree with an empathetic laugh.
Of course, the ideal would be a talker and good listener at the same time. I have such friends and the exchange is so fair and fulfilling. You feel that your words are going to a place of receptivity and you let yourself become like a sponge absorbing the others sentences.
My life is filled with people who are interested and people who are interesting. I have quite a few friends out of state and we e-mail each other. Their letters are about their life and what they do or are going through, but also with questions about me and what has happened in my latest days.
I have also in my life the people who are the ultimate talkers. They are interesting but stop there. They do not ask me about me or about my work, my latest trip, or what I think about such a subject. For them I am the perfect receptacle. The one who puts my head in one of my hands and tilts it in a nice way. I listen.
I wonder where you fit in this aspect of living? Who do you talk to? Who listens to you with great patience and interest?
I think that our days are filled with the need for both telling and listening. Sometimes we need to be heard like a too full cup that life has filled with sorrow. At times it is nice to simply talk and tell the stories of the past or the last happening that made us laugh.
And we need others in our circle! We need good friends to make our days livable and fun and to have a dear companion to tell of our latest adventures or sadness.
The song "Tell me more, tell me more," from the movie "Grease" keeps us from being isolated in our cave. Being able to tell is opening ourselves to a catharsis, a much needed outflow that keeps us sane. Just as listening sometimes fills our cup with the pleasure of truly hearing another soul.
So no matter where you stand on the issue, I hope that your friends are ready to talk or to listen. Life has enough room for both.
Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre
Editing by Barry Kaplan