I actually have a pretty good new Years resolution this year. Its not a concrete goal, not about completing another marathon, losing weight, working out more, eating healthy; none of the things that make up my usual sort of resolution. My New Years Resolution is to listen.
I got this idea, I must admit shamefully, from a Huffington Post article on Facebook about ways to improve your marriage. Yes I know that’s pretty trite! And yet, as I idly read through the list of suggestions, one of them really stood out for me. They said to make the effort to put down that book, tear yourself away from that little iPhone screen, and actually listen when your spouse is speaking to you.
I know how guilty I am in this area. Half the time when Lee is talking to me about something that interests him, he will be 3 or 4 sentences into whatever he is talking about before I start to vaguely realize he is trying to initiate a conversation with me. He gets frustrated when I have to ask him to go back and start over once I realize he is talking to me. And then, if the topic of conversation involves boat engines or spreadsheets it doesn't take very long before my mind starts to wander again.
It’s all very well for me to MAKE this resolution, but how am I going to implement it? Somehow I need to realize sooner that Lee is trying to talk to me when my mind is elsewhere. And if what he is saying to me is difficult for me to understand, instead of tuning out and nodding my head and pretending to understand I can ask him to stop and explain what he is talking about in a way that I can grasp.
I don't know if making a conscious effort to listen will help, but like any bad habit, NOT listening is something I think I can unlearn. Maybe slowly, bit-by-bit, I can train myself to hear him sooner. I’m going to try anyway.
And really listening can have other implications as well. Sometimes in social settings I get a bit anxious while making conversation, and instead of listening to the other person I start worrying about what I could say next to keep the conversation going. Maybe I can try to stop doing that as much too.
And maybe sometimes instead of listening to the idle chatter going on in my head, I can listen to what is going on around me, even when that doesn’t involve another person. Is the wind blowing and whipping the pine trees back and forth? Are the dogs sighing and making little noises in their sleep? Would some music in the background improve the tempo and tenor of my day? And sometimes, maybe that TV in the background should be turned off. Maybe those little dogs should stop barking and relax! Maybe the silence should be enjoyed as well. Listening more could have many implications!
I know this is a resolution that would be easy to cast by the wayside after a couple of weeks. It’s a hard one, one that won't be easily achieved in part, let alone in full, maybe ever. So I think it’s a good thing that I'm declaring it in a blog post. Maybe one of you will ask me occasionally, “hey, how is that listening thing going?” I hope I'll be able to say it’s a work in progress, and not, “what??”