A wonderful moment for me today. Someone asked me how I was.
Hardly earth-shattering news, right?
But wait – before you dismiss me as being overly dramatic, let me explain.
The difference is they didn’t ask me in a ‘How are you?’, polite, small-talk kind of way. They asked me about a personal project I’d mentioned many months ago. They asked how I was getting on with it. And because it’s linked to one of my deepest passions and interests, this person wanted to know more about my interests and more about me.
For the first time in a long while, I felt someone was genuinely interested in engaging with me at a deeper level. And maybe that sounds hard to believe but in my experience, the art of attentive listening is difficult. Especially amongst Christians. For some reason, we excel at praying for each other behind closed doors, but not in actually sticking around to listen.
We all know the signs when someone’s not listening, right? Their eyes glaze over, they’re distracted and fidgety. They glance over your shoulder in the hope of something more exciting to do. In short, they’re physically or mentally doing exactly what’s depicted in the photo above (by the way – just looking at it made me yawn).
I once listened for fifteen minutes to a friend update me on their life, after which they said with a great big smile, “That’s enough about me – how about you?”
And honestly, one minute in, they glanced at their watch and said, “Sorry, I better go check on my friend over there. Lovely catching up with you.” And, might I add, they didn’t even wait for me to finish my sentence. They got up and left me in the middle of a crowded room, my mouth still partway through formulating a word. Please tell me I’m not the only one this happens to.
It’s hard to experience things like that – especially from friends – without feeling like you must be the dullest person in the world. In case you’re wondering, I did tell them later how embarrassed I’d felt at their abrupt departure and they apologised, explaining that they thought I’d finished. *Sigh*
That’s why today’s conversation was a wonderful surprise. And it didn’t originate from a friend. It came from someone I barely know but with whom I’ve had some interesting, general conversations. This someone decided today to make the time to find out more about me and understand what I care about. We may rarely cross paths in day to day life, but the fact that they gave me fifteen minutes of their time and attention made me feel valued.
Attentive listening isn’t easy but it’s one of the finest gifts you can offer to someone. (Click to tweet)
Who will you make that effort for this week? You never know – it might just make their day. It certainly made mine.