The Art of
Maggie Van Ostrand
would the world be like today had Adam been a better listener, if
he had listened to God and not been talked into swiping that taboo
apple? Adam was a precursor to the men I know -- a million years later
and they still don't listen.
How do we know whether mankind would be suffering less today had Adam
only listened? What if he heard wrong and Eve actually said, "Say,
Adam, hand me that pomegranate?" Just think of all the trouble that
would've been avoided.
God got his revenge though; rumor has it that the Adam's Apple you
can see on today's men was originally caused by a piece of the forbidden
fruit getting stuck in Adam's throat. Served him right. Serves them
all right. They're still trying to figure out how to shave around
Adam may have been the first human to turn a deaf ear, but he certainly
wasn't the last. My kids didn't listen to me any more than I listened
to my mom. And husbands are notorious for nodding instead of listening
when wives talk. An anonymous pundit wrote, "If you want your spouse
to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say, talk in
According to writer Anna Wickhaur, "The true male has never yet walked/Who
liked to listen when his mate talked."
Listening appears to be a dying art for all but the most charismatic
people. One of the main reasons they're charismatic is because they
listen. More than a century ago, a young woman who had dined with
both William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli explained why she preferred
Disraeli: "When I dined with Mr. Gladstone, I felt as though he was
the smartest man in England. But when I dined with Mr. Disraeli, I
felt as though I was the smartest woman in England."
The finest minds in history knew the importance of listening. Thoreau
said, "The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one
asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."
History repeats itself because no one listens the first time.
is the simplest form of communicating with someone -- what's a talker
without a listener? In his book, "The Lost Art of Listening" (Guilford
Press), Michael P. Nichols, Ph.D., notes, "Nothing hurts more than
the sense that people close to us aren't really listening to what
we have to say. We never outgrow the need to communicate what it feels
like to live in our separate, private worlds of experience. That's
why a sympathetic ear is such a powerful force in human relationships,
and why the failure to be heard and understood is so painful." He
states that "The essence of good listening is empathy, which can be
achieved only by suspending our preoccupation with ourselves and entering
into the experience of the other person."
Lost Art of Listening"
|There's an actual
society devoted to helping people listen better: The International
Listening Association. Based on information supplied by Ph.D's Larry
L. Barker and Kittie W. Watson's book "Listen Up" (St. Martin's Press),
the I.L.A. notes the 10 most irritating listening habits:
Interrupting the speaker.
2. Not looking at the speaker.
3. Rushing the speaker and making him feel that he's wasting the listener's
4. Showing interest in something other than the conversation.-
5. Getting ahead of the speaker and finishing his thoughts.
6. Not responding to the speaker's requests.
7. Saying, "Yes, but . . .," as if the listener has made up his mind.
8. Topping the speaker's story with "That reminds me. . ." or "That's
nothing, let me tell you about. . ."
9. Forgetting what was talked about previously.
10. Asking too many questions about details.
Simpson, later the Duchess of Windsor, listened very well and a king
gave up his throne for her. Pamela Churchill Harriman not only listened
well, she followed up by thoroughly researching the interests of the
current man of her dreams so she could respond intelligently. It never
Geisha girls, as well as the great courtesans of history, all listened
attentively. Why do you think Cleopatra was so irresistible to men?
Not only did she listen in many languages, she excelled in the most
foreign language of them all, The Language of Men.
Perhaps Dorothy Parker was referring to Cleopatra when sbe said, "That
woman speaks eighteen languages and she can't say no in any of them."
In their normal relationships, people will find the benefits of attentive
listening to be enormous and immediate. Creative people often consider
their loved one as a muse, though the loved one has only to listen
while the speaker clarifies his own thoughts.
While Fran Liebowitz observed, "The opposite of talking isn't listening.
It's waiting," my own observation is more succinct: The way to a man's
heart is through his stomach, and the way to a woman's is through
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
April 8, 2006 column