I bought my husband, Eric, pajamas for Christmas. I know you're thinking, 'What a lame gift to give your talented and charming, man.,' but he loved them. At least that's what he said, and I believe him. The only problem is I accidentally bought one in the wrong size. I have to take it back to the store, stand in a long line for returns, find the right size and stand in the long line to purchase them. I don't want to do it. I'll eventually get it done, but it may take a while. Do you know what present never has to be returned? Ok, love, happiness, blah blah blah. I'm thinking of something else that has a lot of value: The gift of listening. Hear me out. (Pun intended).
How many times do you call a friend to talk about what's going on in your life, just for her to monopolize the whole conversation of what's going on in her life? I apologize to all my friends I've done this to. It's human nature to want to express our feelings, thoughts, and physical well-being to others. We want to know our existence matters, and we're cared for. The best way to convey that is to take the time to listen to each other. We solidify our relationships by letting the other person talk and stay focused on what is being said. It doesn't count if you tune out waiting for her to stop talking, so you can get your turn to speak. It's disrespectful when you don't bother with follow-up questions to show you're engaged and interested. If she's pouring her heart out, she needs to know that you care. If she's excited about wonderful news, take time to celebrate with her.
One-sided conversations are selfish. For relationships to grow, each person needs to find the balance of give and take. I recognize when I'm simply a sounding board to help someone going through a rough patch. Letting them voice their worries to get them out of their head is a way to help them move forward. I trust they'll do the same for me when I need to talk about my concerns and fears.
Listening is a great time to practice mindfulness. When I find myself distracted by thoughts while on the phone with a friend, I bring myself back by taking in a quiet, deep breath. It helps me stay focused, and if I lose the thread of the conversation, I'll politely ask my friend to repeat what she said. Unfortunately, I've never been good at pretending or trying to figure out what the exchange is about. It's easier to confess I was preoccupied by my monkey brain. It happens to the best of us.
Next time you're with friends and loved ones, pay attention to the back and forth of your conversation. Has someone taken over and allowed very little feedback from others? Is it you? Most likely, it's me. Once again, I apologize. I'm working to be better at giving the gift of listening. It's easier than having to return pajamas.