Talk Deeply, Listen Well
The New York Times published an article this week called “Talk Deeply, Be Happy?” It looked at a study that considered the question: Would you be happier if you spent more time discussing the state of the world and the meaning of life — and less time talking about the weather?
The study showed that people, in fact, were happier if they engaged in more substantive conversations –rather than small talk. People need to feel connected to others, and engaging conversation helps provide this connection and sense of happiness.
My reaction to the article? Well, I thought, “of course!” But, the bottom line is, that it takes more energy to engage people. To forge that trust and open dialogue. But, if we do, the reward is there. And, we need to get over the fear that people will not want to hear what we have to say, will gossip, or disagree with our views.
So how to do this? How to overcome the fear? How to muster up the energy to engage others? The old Nike slogan seems relevant: Just do it! Perhaps, starting with our spouses and kids and parents. Starting with the relationships God has given us. The ones we can so easily take for granted and forget to nourish.
I know how easy it is to slip into small talk, even when I really long for more. I know that I may ignore talking about those things that really matter, because I don’t know how my husband or kids will react. But sometimes, I find that just listening carefully works better than talking.
If I, instead, remember to listen well, I hear their longings and hopes, and the conversation flows. I can connect when they are ready, on topics they raise. I just have to remember to listen, and not to impose my ideas and thoughts.
I know that I have to work at listening. As a mom, I often feel like I need to give advice. Suggest options and ideas. But, sometimes–more often than I want to admit–if I would just listen and ask a few questions, I would hear my kids’ hearts and how capable and thoughtful they are. If I would just listen to my husband’s concerns about what is going on with his work, I might know his fears and joys. Sometimes, I walk away thinking I just blew a great opportunity to know my child or my husband, better. I get caught up in the problem solving–solution finding–and not listening for how they feel or what they need. I see that I am more like Martha–worried about doing things–rather than Mary–who stopped to listen to Jesus speak. Luke 10:38-42.
So, if we talk deeply, we will be happier because we will have connections we long for has God’s children. But, I think listening–consciously slowing down to listen to others is a powerful way to start. For me, I know I need to do this more. The Bible says that we should be “quick to listen, and slow to speak.” James 1: 19.
Listening. The foundation we need for those deep connections with God and others. How will I–how will you–listen better today?