The other evening, I watched my four-year-old son start crying because his sister was too busy doing her own thing and not listening. My son adores his sister. He mimics her in all kinds of ways. He has also taken on her trait of talking up a storm. So, like his sister when he talks he wants to be listened to. Well, the other day, my daughter came home in a right state where she was counter arguing just about everything I had to say. She had energy and by golly she was going to make some Valentine’s gifts for the family. As soon as she got home, she closed herself up in her room and told everyone to stay out while she worked. It’s good to know what you want and how you’re going to get there. (Hmmm, that sounds like the business of you. Any way . . .) So, what does my son do? He does the same thing.
After about 20 minutes of focused work punctuated by occasional requests for tape, tissue or wrapping paper, they come out with some gifts. The both had much to say about what they had been doing. I listened while I got dinner ready. My wife got home and they let her have it. The stories, the energy and the welcome home was impressive. As my daughter was telling my wife about something, I notice my son getting upset and on the verge of crying. Both my wife and I inquired, and found he just wanted his sister to listen to what he had to say. A couple of tears popped out and we interrupted our daughter and apprised her of the situation. She then stopped and took time to listen. He told her about not looking in the gifts and some other demands like he gets from his sister. Not all of it was quite understandable, but he was much relieved to have his sister just listen to him.
This got me thinking. When we don’t give people our attention and truly listen, are we making some long forgotten deep part of them cry? When we don’t listen, are we separating ourselves from the person or people we are interacting with? I know when I don’t get the attention I want, I withdraw and go within especially when it is someone I care for and want to have care for me. Even at work, I feel less connected and less respected when people don’t listen. When it happens time and time again, trust erodes, and interactions become petty and unprofessional.
Perhaps we do make people cry inside when we don’t take the time and listen intently and seek to understand them.