Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Active Listening

I was up very early (for me, at least) yesterday, out in the garden, digging and bagging plants. I had put an ad on freecycle, and received quite a few responses from people wanting daylilies.

When I first began to garden, I had the wonderful luck to be living just down the street from an elderly gentleman who was a mad gardener. He shared many plants with me, and taught me how to care for them. He was one of those rare wise souls we encounter, who enrich us with their kindness and generosity of spirit.

I always think of him when I'm digging plants to share with others. He had a thick Eastern European accent, and often had to stop and think, in order to translate his thoughts from his language of birth, into English. I remember another neighbour mentioning that she found it hard to be patient while he spoke, because he chose his words carefully, and there would sometimes be long pauses in his speech.

I was grateful for my years in Al-Anon - where I learned respectful, active listening - to keep me from interrupting my friend, or trying to rush him along to finish his thought. I could allow long pauses, and not find them irritating; we'd be drifting around my garden, or his, while we talked, and there was always a lovely flower or leaf to admire along the way. I learned so much about gardening, through being willing to listen while my friend ruminated aloud about this plant or that.

"Listen and Learn" is one of my favourite slogans, because I love to talk, and am good at making others laugh, so I can have a tendency to perform in this way, if my ego is given free rein.

From the ODAT, page 41:

"When I talk all the time, nothing new is being added to me."


"To absorb new ideas, I keep my lips closed and my ears open."

That's the opposite way round from the way I did it when I came into program.


  1. I was always 10 steps ahead of every conversation that I was involved in. I finished other's sentences for them and was always eager for it to be my turn. Way too much talk not enough listen. My how things have changed.

  2. I continue to work on slowing down the mind and the mouth to truly "listen". God fills in all the silences with his love and power.

    This gentleman you describe sounds to me like an angel sent your way.

    Prayer Girl

  3. I always like the saying that I never miss an opportunity to keep my mouth shut.