Are You Listening?

I am a listener.  I hear the things that people don’t say.  Hell, I even notice changes in ‘tone’ in online communications.  I am a people watcher.  I see things people don’t even realize they are putting out there.  I notice things, little seemingly inconsequential things.  I notice things that many others do not.  Few people know this about me and no, I am not crazy hearing voices or seeing apparitions.  I just pay attention.  Close attention.

I have been more aware of this lately and more curious as to why I seem to have this gift (or curse, depending on how you want to look at it).  I was curious enough to go find some online tests on perception and take them.  These tests were ultra tricky.  Each question was never what you thought it was going to be and, had you not picked up some very subtle things in previous questions/images, you would have no clue how to answer it because there was no way to predict what was coming.  I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I scored out of the box on every one of them.

This ‘hobby’ probably started when I was very young.  I was raised by a single mom and we had very little until she went back to school and finally got a good job when I was a teenager.  I often had to entertain myself for hours at her work, school or other places because she couldn’t afford childcare.  In that environment, you either get lost in a book, your imagination or you watch people.  Nobody ever really notices a little kid sitting around all day so I had unfiltered people watching opportunities.

Fast forward to the here and now.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “how did you know that” or “I guess you know me better than I thought”, I would be a rich woman.

It’s dumb little things like noticing the smile crack a little when someone thinks nobody is looking, body language like pulling away, noticing when someone gets quiet or distracted, hearing when someone doesn’t respond in a way you would typically expect them to – just little subtle nuances that tell you something is wrong or off.  There are clear signs when someone is happy or excited as well but I am less concerned about those even though I notice them.  I could list a million things that I have seen over the years that were so clear had anyone been paying attention.

This is a blessing in that I have often been able to be there for someone because I noticed just one little thing that made me ask “Are you OK?” and the dam broke.  It can be an equal curse, especially if those ‘little things’ are aimed directly at you.  Just because you see it doesn’t mean you mention it.  That can hurt. A lot.

All of that is really just an explanation of what brought me to writing this blog in the first place.

I recently wrapped up what turned out to be two of the most difficult years of my life.  As details slowly emerged near the end of this period, so many said to me “I had no idea?”  People I saw all the time.  I am not faulting anybody but was rather surprised it wasn’t totally obvious.  I am fortunate to have some absolutely incredible people in my life but not everybody has that kind of support.

When was the last time you REALLY paid attention?  When was the last time you REALLY listened?

There are people we love, like or care about all around us.  Everyone has ups and downs.  Good times and bad.  Are you really paying attention?  Are you stopping long enough to notice those subtle changes that say they might need you?  One soft shoulder can make all the difference if someone is having difficulties, pondering a major change or struggling with a decision.  People don’t like to ask for help but will often take it if offered.  Are you noticing enough to be that safe harbor?

On the reverse side of that coin, have you ever considered what message you are sending?  When was the last time in a period of conflict, indecision or misunderstanding that you took a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to try to see how they may have perceived your actions, words or behavior?   I can’t believe how many times I have seen a relationship fail or a friendship end because one person meant one thing but the other received it in a completely different way.

Evaluating your own actions and words is equally as important as noticing the subtle nuances in another.

All I ask is to STOP.  Breathe, be quiet, listen to what you are not hearing, notice what you are not seeing.  Isn’t that lady at work usually more chipper?  Why is that little boy acting out and so moody?  Why does that man you sometimes have a drink with after work have a little more a slump to his shoulders?  Why hasn’t my girl kissed me goodbye in two weeks?  Why didn’t my guy even notice I asked him a question or spoke to him, multiple times?

This has been on my mind for some time.  We are moving too fast.  We are too distracted.  We are too busy.  We are too stressed.  We are too confined by society’s expectations.  We are too afraid.

We are losing the real and true connections with others that make life so incredibly amazing.  We are losing what really matters.  This breaks my heart.

Make the time.  Please notice.

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