I recently got back from traveling for work for 10 days, during which time I think I may have gotten a really bad cold. Upon my return (wait for it---you might be about to enter the TMI section of my blog), I immediately had to do a colonoscopy prep (one of my questions for God is going to be, "What in the world....?") followed by the colonoscopy and an endoscopy. I just asked if they would ensure they do the endoscopy first. The answer? "Oh we always do that first then go straight to the colonoscopy." Wait....you don't really mean "straight" to it, right????? The day after that, we left for Tucson for a wedding. I have taken a nap every single day since we have been home. Might I add that I never take naps? My doctor (who Dave made me an appointment to see without asking, as he was not pleased with my slight "overdoing life" scenario) said, "You are likely dizzy, nauseous, run down and lacking fluid because your body is trying to tell you to slow down. It's probably best to listen to it." I started crying, which is just one more indication that, although I absolutely ADORE my work (the colonoscopy, not so much), 10 days is a long time to be on the road.
Listening to my body reminded me of how important the skill of listening is, in the first place.
I travel a lot for work. A lot.
So I hear a lot of things that people say in airports. I was awaiting a flight the other day, 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. Anyone missing a beaver cap? It might or might not be in the Denver airport.
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 Jakarta, people are likely hearing this conversation go on.
Southwest Airlines paged a man by name a little while later, 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 for Calgary. 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 recently in a restroom in the Phoenix airport:
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.