Julie Mitchell's CoachNotes

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How to listen with gratitude

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Friday, November 26 has been declared National Day of Listening. Sponsors advocate interviewing a loved one, noting that listening is a gift benefiting both parties. When we seek others’ stories, relationships may grow closer and we may be surprised at how much we learn. Listening well exemplifies respectful communication.

Sometimes I’m impatient or not very interested when I talk with older people, assuming I already know what they have learned. I lost my grandparents many years ago. Fortunately, I sought out some of their stories before they died. Unfortunately, I did not have the insight or maturity to ask much more. If my grandparents were still alive, I would interview them for hours on end! Perhaps other elders in my life could offer me their wisdom, if I took the time to ask.

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday reminding me to appreciate simple things I take for granted… my sense of hearing, for instance. Too often, I’m a poor listener, but my ears are working well at age 51. Today, I’m tempted to complain about the roaring, clanging sounds of garbage trucks collecting in the neighborhood. Yet how grateful I am for weekly pick-up by people to whom I’ve never said “thanks” for noisy, smelly work I depend upon.

I know senior citizens who are excluded from conversations because of poor hearing. Sadly, many with rich  experiences to share will not wear hearing aids (or can’t afford them).  Others will never be asked to tell their stories. I’m thankful for those who include and honor me with their listening, when I’m asked to coach, consult or give friendly advice. What if I could not understand their requests? What if they stopped asking?

I have more to write, learn and practice on the topic of listening. For now, I’ll appreciate my ears and sounds from my open window, including the breeze blowing leaves off the trees and garbage trucks rumbling in the background.

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Author: Julie Mitchell

Julie Mitchell is an executive coach, facilitator, professional speaker and senior consultant who can help you create more positive working relationships, improve your performance, and achieve goals through understanding and practicing effective communication on every level.

3 thoughts on “How to listen with gratitude

  1. Julie, the morning after reading your excellent post on listening I came across this quote in Composing a Further Life, The Age of Active Wisdom by Mary Catherine Bateson:
    “It may be that the word wisdom refers not so much to what one knows but to a quality of listening, both internal and interpersonal. In other words, the willingness to learn and modify earlier learning is itself a component of wisdom, and the word refers to a process rather than a possession. What then would active wisdom mean? The ability and willingness to contribute to society by putting a lifetime pattern of experience and reflection to work–often, above all, by listening.

  2. Perfect. Nancy, you are among the most wise women I’m honored to know. Thanks for sharing this, as I’m going through a rich time of modifying earlier learning. I read “Composing a Life” 20 years ago and have referred to it often (even in my master’s thesis)! Now it’s time to read “Composing a Further Life.”

  3. Pingback: Mindful listening: Know where you’re going | Julie Mitchell's CoachNotes

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