The Art of Listening

Photo Credit: B Rosen via Compfight cc


It happened: My mother suffered a stroke. In the short time since, our family has endured emotions like no other.


The stroke left my mother with aphasia. A nurse described it best: Imagine that the computer on your desktop is processing perfectly – but it can’t send data effectively to the printer. As a result, when you print anything, it comes out in a confetti of mismatched words.


My mom can think clearly. But if one doesn’t know her plight, when listening to her they’d think she’d lost her mind. Her thoughts and ideas all seem trapped.


On a recent visit, through long and labored efforts, my mother was ultimately able to communicate: “I love my children. They see who I am. I’m a person.”


The impact of this experience on me is not light. I go through my day listening to people – or thinking I’m listening. And when I don’t understand what someone has to say I realize now how quickly I’ve dismissed their words – which means I’ve dismissed them. But when have I ever been perfect in effectively getting data from my mind to the printer? (There’s ample opportunity.)


I want to be a better listener, because I want people to know I see them as a person.


The next time we talk, don’t be surprised if I make the request: Tell me more.






P.S. One of my mom’s favorite books is The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children, written by our founder, Steven Vannoy. Simon & Schuster is planning a celebratory 20th anniversary launch this May. It’s worth rereading.


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