Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

British Telecom used this in their adverts as did Samaritans. Perhaps they should have used the alternative "It's good to listen". Having been a Samaritan for many years I know how true this is. I also know how difficult it is to listen. The problem is, being a good listener also involves talking and that is where the problem lies.

You can't sit there like a dummy expecting the other person to open up. You have to drop a pebble in the pool that will send ripples out and encourage a response.

I don't think I am a good listener as I think too much about what is being said to me. This results in my mind holding a brilliant response that I can't wait to inject into the conversation so that I tend to jump in before the other person has finished speaking.

They used to be called cocktail parties but I don't know if they still exist. It was always a crowded room where everyone stood in small groups each individual balancing a drink and a small plate of food.

As the evening wore on the volume of the voices in each small group increased so that they could be heard over the other small groups standing within easy touching distance.

This is another good exercise in listening. Do you hear discussions on quantum physics or philosophy? No, it will almost certainly be gossip and pretty introspective gossip at that. Stories of
my holiday, intimate details about the state of my health, the sheer brilliance of my children, the problems I am having with my neighbours. And in order to get my story across I will have to speak louder that the others around me.

If you find yourself in such a situation, pause for a moment, look down at your slowly curling sandwich and listen. The noise from the disparate groups is quite frightening. I am sure if you stood outside an animal enclosure at the zoo and heard that racket coming from the crowd of animals you would head for the nearest exit in case the crazed creatures escaped.

Next time you meet someone you haven't seen for some time, try dropping the first pebble in the pool.
Not, "Isn't the weather dreadful?" or "Have you seen what they have done on our front street?" but something like "How are things?" it's a very open question and it's quite possible you will get the standard response. "Fine!". Try another pebble together with a smile "Did you know F I N E is an acronym for Frightened Insecure Nervous and Exhausted ?"

Try not to 'Cap' their response. If they tell you their son has been made redundant, don't launch into the troubles your cousin is having with her daughter but let them tell you more. It may extend the casual meeting but when you part it's almost certain they will feel a bit better because someone has listened.

How are things?

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