Friday, 3 November 2017

Are You Listening?

When I was at school we had to study an essay by Charles Lamb entitled The Two Races of Men. He reckoned that humankind could be divided into two categories: the men who borrow and the men who lend. I remember that I really enjoyed his sense of humour and his remarks on the "despoilers of shelves" and on other borrowers who made notes in the margins so that the book came back with added value.
When it comes to conversation and listening to other people, I am inclined to think that there are two kinds: those who listen and those who do not.
We all know people who listen to what we have to say, are interested in it and in what has been happening to us since we last met. In our turn, we listen to them in the same way. Which means we belong to Those Who Listen. If we don't recognise ourselves in that description, it might be time to analyse our conversations with others.
The art of listening is a major advantage to us writers, because everyone has a story and everyone is interesting. Yes, there are people who will tell you the same thing every time you meet them or who will moan persistently about just everything, but even they can be entertaining if you learn to expect it and not be impatient. Personally, I try heading them off at the pass whenever I see an old story coming down the path at me. Sometimes it works, sometimes I just smile and listen. Mostly, though, I find other people fascinating, even those little quirks which can be irritating at times.
There are others of our acquaintance who if you were to say that you had just received the Breaking News that the moon is in fact just a large chunk of Cheddar cheese, proven by a bunch of renowned scientists, they would merely nod and say "yes, I know" without batting an eyelid and go on to tell you something about a rare cheese they discovered the other day. They are just not going to be surprised because they have most likely only heard "cheese" in what you said.
We all know people who don't wait for you to finish what you are saying because they want to jump right in there with their story. And there are the people who think they know what you are going to say so don't need to listen to you at all and are then amazed when, later on, they discover that you didn't in fact say that you bumped into Mick Jagger fifty years ago.  What you actually said was that you almost bumped into a Mick Jagger lookalike last week and you'd always thought no one made of flesh and blood could ever look like him.....
Humans are so diverse, irritating and likeable at the same time, that I guess we have to take everyone as we find them, mentally earmark the ones worthy telling a story to, and just enjoy everyone's conversation listeners and non-listeners alike.


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