Many years ago, I met a neighbor who turned out to become a very good close friend. It was so easy and natural to talk to her; we had so much in common. She is a teacher and so am I. Her husband is a computer programmer and so is mine. We have sons, not daughters. We love to cook and bake.
What also drew me to her was her sense of humor. This allowed me to relax and tell her more about myself. I explained my hearing loss to her and how it affected me on a daily basis. In fact, she is the very same friend who was with me during my "Timpanogos Cave" moment.
Several years later, she paid me one of the most interesting compliments. Looking right at me, she said, "Frieda, you are the best listener I have ever met." Huh? Me? She continued, "Just because you don't have the best hearing, doesn't mean that you don't know how to listen. I feel that I have your full, undivided attention and that you really care about me."
We can all be that kind of person to someone. Someone who knows how to listen. How do I listen? I stop whatever I'm doing and make sure that I am facing that person. Even though I am lip-reading most of the time, I make sure that I look into their eyes from time to time. A person's eyes will give you valuable information about their true inner emotions.
Interrupting is not the hallmark of a good listener, but sometimes I do it. I wait for a pause, thinking it is the end of their sentence, and start speaking. That's an accidental interruption. Sometimes, I purposely interrupt. Why? To check for understanding. I will often say, "So you are saying....." and repeat what I think I heard. This confirms to the person talking that I am really trying to listen and understand what they are saying. Sometimes, I will stop the person mid-sentence and ask them to slow down, look at me, or ahem...finish eating before talking to me, which is usually my kids. Did you know that we speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute? I'm sorry, but my brain can't keep up...I'm not only trying to listen, but I'm trying to figure out that one word in the sentence that I missed. You know, that one word that can change the entire meaning of the sentence?
I ask questions or state back what I think I hear. Asking questions gives me control of the topic, which I often miss in a group setting, but also shows interest in the speaker. If someone asks me to meet them at the park at 4:30, I will say, "I'll see you at the Lone Peak Park tomorrow at 4:30." Then the speaker has an opportunity to correct me if I am wrong.
I am a literal listener. I have difficulty picking up the little nuances and subtleties in conversation. Sarcasm is a good example. My hearing does not allow me to pick up the tone of voice that one uses in sarcasm. Often, I will ask if they are being serious or not. "Are you really.....?"
I'm still working on my listening skills. Sometimes, it's not that simple. It's easy with friends, but a little more challenging with a spouse, children or parents. Try it. It may work a small miracle.