I hurt a friend’s feelings yesterday.
Oh, it wasn’t intentional. I said something before I thought…jumped into a conversation and didn’t know what was being said. I apologized, of course, and my friend graciously accepted. But deep down inside I felt rotten. Another case of “why don’t I EVER listen?” in a long line of not listening.
So, I know the problem (don’t talk all the time). I know the solution (listen more often) and I have the desire (please God help me to keep my mouth shut). Why doesn’t it work?
The answer came to me at 3 a.m. when I was laying in bed trying to get to sleep. The bedroom window was open and our friendly owl, who has amused us for years, was having his nightly chat with the owl next door. “WHOOOOOOOO.” Then came the answer, a distant whispy “whooooooo.” Long pause. Another back and forth. Then silence and anticipation. Long pause. Soon the intriguing “WHOOOOOO” once again. Finally just silence.
And at 3:30 in the morning, I may have finally gotten my answer. I remembered a poem my mother used to recite.
“The wise old owl sat in the oak,
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we be more like that wise old bird?”
I need to show my respect for the person talking by being quiet. By actually listening. Not just waiting for the other person to stop talking, but actually enjoying the ideas of others…the process of conversation. By doing that, I’ll grow in knowledge and avoid the pitfalls of speaking too soon and potentially hurting feelings.
And that means I need to listen even when I may not agree. Like our owl, I need to pause, wait, reflect. How will I know if my ideas are worthy if I’m so busy talking that I can’t defend them? The next time that I hear our friend the owl at 3 a.m. I’m going to be grateful for his wisdom. He speaks, listens, digests and slowly speaks again.
That may not be natural for me, but it’s worth a try.