Listen Up


Did you hear that?  Listen.  Sit still, quiet your mind.  Count to ten.  Now listen.

The clatter of dishes in the sink. The rumble of a dog’s stomach waiting for breakfast. The sclaffing sound of the ceiling fan. The steady footfall on a sidewalk.  These are the soft presences we miss. These are the communications that matter.

Almost 90% of what people say isn’t coming out of their mouths. It’s the way they touch their collar bones, the way they tap their left foot or the way they clutch their mug of coffee and rub their index finger up and down the circumference.

       “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
       Ernest Hemingway

Sit back. Stop your clammer of thoughts. Watch. Then listen to their movement.

I haven’t always been observant or even a good listener. As a child I would listen in order to reply. As I listened to another person speak big bundles of smart lil’ quips and replies would stack up inside of me until I exploded like a firehose all over the person. As a matter of fact I used to talk so much that once my cousins duct taped my mouth shut…I have a picture to prove it.

Slowly, with a few flush-worthy moments, I learned that what I had to say wasn’t always important. If I didn’t care what the other person was saying, who’s to say they gave a flying flip about what I was saying?

       “Listen to many, speak to a few.”
       William Shakespeare

I’ll admit, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by listening. I’ve learned that some people will take FULL advantage of your silence. I think the key is to listen to people that you respect.

So many useless things are said in this world. I feel sad that exquisite, beautiful words or phases get used over and over and over until what remains is a handful of letters in a specific arrangement.

       “So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days, you can hear their  chorus rushing past”
      Nicole Krauss

I’ve found that when I listen with intention and respect to people I discover useful, and sometimes not so useful, things and yet sometimes listening to the mundane uncovers the impeccable.

Ok now.  Listen.  Count to ten.  What do you hear?


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2 thoughts on “Listen Up

  1. Lola Alapo says:

    Wow, Paris. Thanks for the reminder. I’m 30 years old and I’m still learning to listen. It’s especially hard when I’m a person who loves talking so much. Learning to listen intentionally in a way that respects and honors the other — I want that to be true of me. Thanks again.

  2. Jason Preater says:

    Listen in order to reply: that is good! I still do that sometimes, trying to jack my best thoughts into a conversation and ending up a jackass. Still, good listening is not complete silence either, I think.

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