Really listening, not just waiting to talk.

This subject has been on my mind for over two years.
In a nut shell, people in SoCal are too busy to really listen.
Quick easy example, when you listen to the radio you can hear it…. Everything is really rapid fire, the presenters and more so the ad’s are really high speed. In a lot of the ad’s they edit out the breaths and pauses that occur naturally in peoples speech. Granted, this is for two reasons, you pay by the second, so the more you can jam in there, the ‘better’, but also peoples attention spans here seem so short. The few times I have watched TV you get the exact same thing. Every thing is really compressed and goes for around 15-25 seconds before it moves on.

This compression of life and brain time has no choice but to overflow into life.
Time and time and time again people have asked me ‘How are you?’ and I start to tell them and with in the magic 15ish seconds their eyes start to wander from yours, they start to shuffle their feet, they glance at their watch and find an excuse to move on. They don’t want to listen. They want a ‘Great’ and nothing else. They want a rapid fire conversation. They want to talk at least 50% of the time. They certainly don’t want to have to work at listening. To follow some ones thoughts on a topic, or to give the other person time to stumble through their thoughts is even ‘worse’.
The net result seems to be that a lot of people here are walking powder kegs and don’t even know it.
Sadly, for the most part, I am becoming one of them. People ask how I am, and I give up and just give the expected ‘great’.

Every now and then someone will stop and ask and really mean to get an answer (I am up to about 4-5 people in three years). Its been so very helpful for me when that happens. To be able to talk with someone that is really listening, not just waiting to talk, is just so helpful it’s a shame that it does not happen more often.
I think my re-adjustment here in SoCal could have been a LOT smoother if I could have talked over a lot of what I have been struggling with. To have some one that I could just verbalize it to, just get it out. Not have them listen to tell me what I should do. A few here have done that. Listen just long enough to get a chance to tell me what I need/should do (according to them). I guess they meant well, but it is not so helpful as just listening.

The shoe ended up on the other foot the other night…. we were at a group activity and there was 4-5 of us standing around, it was a quiteish night and pretty good conversation was flowing around, some one asked me how were were settling down after we brought the house. I thought it was a nice group, so I started to explain. I got about a paragraph in and one of the people there jumped in and said ‘Oh, I know exactly how you feel’ and started to explain about a moment in her life, I was a little frustrated at first, but just listened to her, she went on and on for about 20 minutes, some of the group wondered off (as expected)…. I could not help but ask the question in my mind ‘how long has it been since someone has really listened to this woman?’.

Here in SoCal people are too busy to stop and listen. Its as simple as that. Friendships are scheduled like dentist visits, in out wham bam thank-you mam. I think this is one reason why Freddy and I have had some odd comments from the kids friends when they come over. We sit and listen to them. Sitting around the fire-pit outside, or just kicking back in the lounge, we turn off the TV and just listen to them. I don’t think they get ‘treated’ like that in their own houses.

When and how did life ever become so compressed that you cant spare 15-20 minutes to listen / talk with (not ‘to’) a person/friend I will never know. It is what it is. I just have to live here and try hard to not get swept up in it.
I don’t want to become insulated like many here. They don’t really share whats going on in their lives, just the busy surface stuff. Its hard to get to know people, its hard to let people know you. Think about for a second, I want people to know me. The real me, but cant. They wont let me. Best I can manage is a 20 second version of me.

Ok, I have taken enough of your time. Thanks for listening.

[Edit one day latter: One person commented off-line about this blog. They pointed out that from the tone of this entry that it was all about me. ‘Poor me. I have no friends because no one will listen to me…’ I totally get how they came to this view after re-reading this blog after reading their email………
I never did very well in any English class in any of the many schools I attended. I also over analyze and over think things, so I often don’t express myself very clearly.

One of the main things I wanted to make clear (and did not) is that friendship is a two way street. I strongly feel that many here in SoCal also do not have friends because everyone is too busy. In other words, I WANT to listen to people. Sure, I have a story to tell and head full of stuff to sort, but I want to get to know people here. They think and act different from me, I have a huge amount to learn (Remember, I was in a basement on my own for 18 years!!!!). I have time to listen, I don’t have anywhere near the hobby time sink that I used to have, I have time to listen. I want to listen. I want people to tell me how they are going when I ask….. but I cant get a solid answer. People are in a world of hurt simply because none of us will stop and listen.
I think its going to take a bit of a solid shake up to force us all to stop and listen to each other.