As many of us prepare for holiday get-togethers with relatives we don’t see frequently we have a great opportunity to gather family stories. But, in the hustle and bustle of the family gathering we have to make sure we’re really listening. Here are a few thoughts that might help.
Writer and editor Brenda Ueland, in a wonderful book, Tell Me More: On the Fine Art of Listening, called “… listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.” She explained, “This is the reason: When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life. You know how if a person laughs at your jokes you become funnier and funnier, and if he does not, every tiny little joke in you weazens up and dies. Well, that is the principle of it. It makes people happy and free when they are listened to. And if you are a listener, it is the secret of having a good time in society (because everybody around you becomes lively and interesting), of comforting people, of doing them good.”
What makes for good listening? Nancy Kline author of Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind offers some simple suggestions:
“Adopt this attitude and general behavior as you listen:
- Settle back
- Keep your eyes on the eyes of the person as they speak
- Cultivate fascination with what they will say next
- Achieve a composure that is wildly dynamic
- Do not interrupt
- Trust that not uttering a word is one of the most effective things you can do
- Know that your job is to help the person think for themself, not to think for them
- Remember that the expression of feelings is often part of the thinking process
- Be aware that much of what they say will be a result of your effect on them
When we listen attentively, says Kline, “In the quiet presence of your attention, respect and ease, important things can happen for the person thinking. Fresh ideas can emerge; confusion can dissipate; painful feelings can subside; creativity can explode.”
So, when you sit down with relatives this holiday season, listen well. I’ll bet you are rewarded with some great stories.