Something struck me today, it has bubbling in the back of my mind for a while: there is so much information to process, so many tasks to finish, so much busyness to tend to that there is little space for intense personal connection. Politically, the bombs are dropped so often, so fast, that the message gets lost in the barrage. Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse and Mickey Kaus all touch on it today.
But I'm not talking just of politics. While the Internet has sped up the information cycle, forcing the network news to move faster, too, all forms of communication have sped up to short, IM'd or text messaged bytes, or is it bites?
Either way, the art of careful, considered, focused listening in a quiet and respectful environment seems to be old-school. People are paying to be listened to now. Therapy and doctors visits substitute for meaninful conversations with family and friends.
Demands. Always demands. Work, school, church all contribute to the frenzied environment. What can be done?
One way to slow down is to be fully present and listen. Stop. Doing. Listen.
If you're feeling unmoored, imagine how your kids are faring. Are they being shuttled and scuttled? There is an art to listening and it doesn't include bossy chiding and lack of eye-contact. (I'm listening--I'm just washing the dishes!) Here are some ideas:
- Plan the time to listen. Intentionally decide to devote an evening to a child or spouse.
- Give eye-contact. Look at them.
- Lean forward. If you are naturally interested you'll do this anyway. Don't care about Suzy's friend who got the latest Bratz doll? Lean forward and act interested, your brain doesn't know the difference. The posture helps you get in the moment.
- Don't interrupt.
- Don't advise.
- Ask open-ended questions--not "yes" or "no" questions. Instead of, "Did you have a good day?" Say, "What was best about today?"
- Touch the person, unobtrusively. A hand on the hand, knee, a foot rub (for children), a volunteered back rub is a way of contact with a child that doesn't "force" a hug or other unwanted contact.