I travel a lot for work. A lot.
So I hear a lot of things that people say in airports. I am awaiting a flight to Chicago right now, and I just heard an announcement, "If you just went through security, and you are missing your beaver cap, please come back to claim it." I'll be honest; the announcer had a tough time saying it without laughing aloud, I could tell by her voice.
I hear couples on the airplane, fighting about what toy they should have brought for their 1-year-old to play with during the flight. It sounds like:
Husband: I told you we should have brought the Plop and Play (okay, I'm making up that name---I have no idea what toys 1 year olds play with).
Wife: No, she won't play with that for very long. It makes too much noise, too.
Husband: The Plop and Play is good for her! Remember how much she liked it when....?
Wife: No!!! (voice gets increasingly louder) We brought the Roll and Rock (okay, I made up that name, too, in case you hadn't guessed) and that is better!
Husband: You have got to be kidding me. We have talked about this before.
Meanwhile, in India, people are likely hearing this conversation go on.
Southwest Airlines just paged a man by name, then said, "Wait. What just happened?" I am not sure about you, but I really never want to hear someone at an airline say, "Wait. What just happened?"
The other day, I stood waiting to board a flight out of Santa Barbara. The two gate agents were standing there talking as if passengers weren't right there. One said, "I don't know why the flight crew doesn't just start boarding these people." The other one said, "I know. I get off work after this, so let's get these people on the plane!" Ummm....."these people" are hearing every word you are saying. Helloooooo?
I suppose much of this has to do with technology, as many people I overhear are talking on their cell phones, which somehow must give the illusion that their conversations are private. And, by the way, if you are in the public bathroom, maybe your cell phone conversation could wait.
Overheard just a few minutes ago in the restroom:
Person on toilet: I'm going to the bathroom but I wanted to tell you that I will be getting on my flight soon. PAUSE, then, more loudly: I SAID I'm going to the bathroom but I am about to get on my flight! PAUSE, then so loudly that the men's restroom likely heard: I'm in the BATHROOM!!! Why can't you hear me???
I have a sweatshirt that a dear friend gave me a few years ago that says, "Is it any coincidence that LISTEN and SILENT have the same letters?" I'm wondering if some of us could take a lesson from my sweatshirt. Listening is so very important in professional and personal conversations. But the listening we need to be doing should focus on truly hearing what the other person is trying to tell us, not what our own agenda is dictating. "Generous listening" is what one of my workshop participants called it two weeks ago. I just love that phrase and am trying to practice it in my work and my relationships.
Just for today, perhaps we can work on that together---generous listening. But we might also want to work on remembering that people are hearing what we say, even when we think our conversations are private.