The joy of listening

A whole psycho-social movement is built around listening strategies

I try to be a good listener, but sometimes I’m too quick to jump into the conversational flow. I’ve always understood that a writer needs to listen, first, and explore the dynamic of what’s going around them. If, however, I get too excited, caught up in the topic, I might bluster away on a rant, or interject some lateral-minded take on what I think someone is trying to say. At these times, I’m realising that I need to learn to hold my inquisitiveness back, and listen with my whole body.

Active listening involves so much non-verbal communication, and it’s not easy to learn, especially if patience is not one’s normal disposition. It seemed to take me forever, for example, to learn how conversation riffs move around a group in the local pub, over a friendly beer. When the time might be right to add your own anecdote, amusing story, or aside. When it’s better to laugh with everyone else. I’m still learning, especially as an expatriate, especially as an outsider, and sometimes I gain so much more by not saying very much.

It was like that at The GlenKens Mens Shed yesterday morning, when the little group of older guys took their late morning break from their projects to have a chat and a cuppa. I wasn’t my normal bashful self, but instead I contributed a few queries, trying to be sociable. The conversation turned to satnavs and the idiosyncracies of navigators. The stories moved around the table in succession, ranging from forays into France, Germany, and even Manchester. I might have jumped in with my own story about squeezing Harry Hymer, our ancient motorhome, through a narrow passage in a tiny Portuguese village, but instead I held back, listened to the adventures of others. The glee was infectious, and laughs rippled around the little room. It was unfailingly good-natured, with a knowing nod to the perceived deficiencies of others.

I had finished my own repair attempt: a ‘cold-weld’ epoxy job on a leaking kettle. The idea was to use classic JB Weld as a bead around the inside of the pressed stainless steel rim, heating the bead with a hot air gun (thanks to the resources of the shed!) and when the bead was nicely in place, to chill the kettle down on an ice block to squeeze the metal together into the setting adhesive. It wasn’t much of a job, but of course as we get older we manage to extend things into the time available. The kettle finally perched in the cool box on ice, however, I was ready for the tea/coffee break at elevenses.

That’s how, repair job in hand, I was able in relaxed mode to enjoy the conversation moving around, as we sat with our hot drinks and stories. I didn’t think I was able to match the story-telling, wasn’t sure that I had the conversational pickup sorted really, so instead I listened, nodding, smiling, making a few affable noises. That was enough to stay in the listening loop, and to enjoy the experience.

As I think back on the morning’s activities, the kettle having performed its first successful leak-free boil, I’m that pleased to think that I may have learned something useful.

This blog is listed with under the Life category.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: