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Listening

I rode the bus to school back in the day. Most of the time, I was a good passenger and my bus drivers liked me, but every once in a while, I misbehaved. On one of these occasions, when I was in second or third grade, my bus driver got so upset with my behavior that she assigned me 50 sentences. Looking back on it, there's no way she had authority to make me do it, but I felt pretty badly. Ashamed enough to not want to tell my parents about it. When I got into the house, Mom was busy cleaning or preparing the house for guests or something, moving from one small chore to the next. I remember wanting to talk to my mom to ask her for ideas of something fun to do, or to help me with something little, probably, but she was so busy she had to remind me to be patient and to ask later. I didn't want to ask later.

After attempting multiple times to talk to her without success, I finally blurted out, "I HAVE TO WRITE 50 SENTENCES," complete with sad, teary voice, clenched fists, and all. At that, my mother turned around and stopped what she was doing to sit down with me on the couch and find out what was wrong. I even remember drawing out the story and details, emphasizing the drama of it, just so that I could keep my mother's attention.

"The essence of good listening is empathy,
which can be achieved only by suspending our
preoccupation with ourselves and entering into
the experience of the other person."

My mother has always been a great listener. Whenever I have had a problem that I want to talk about, she sits with me, look me in the eyes, and never interrupts until I'm finished with my story before she reminds me of the reality of the situation and points out some solutions. I have always appreciated this attribute in my mother, but didn't truly realize its value until my senior year in high school when mom was diagnosed with colon cancer.

"Loving parents share the moods of their children
and show it. It isn't exuberance or any other emotion
that conveys loving appreciation,
it's being understood, and taken seriously."

Without going into too much detail, senior year was rough for me, and mom was always there to listen to me and remind me that people do and say things without really thinking and that I do thoughtless things sometimes too. When she was diagnosed in March and started chemotherapy, I began to distance myself from her. I guess I was afraid of wearing her out, while she was already so weak, or burdening her with my meaningless problems. Whatever the reason, my mother and I lost something important in our relationship, and because of previous decisions with some of my other dear friends, they weren't as close as I needed them at that time (my own fault). Suddenly I was left very alone during a time when I was very vulnerable.

When I left for college immediately after High School graduation (literally, the day after), things got much better. I lived with a group of girls who became dear friends and, well, life is just better in college, friends. Eventually, I met Andrew. I'd always been intrigued with the strong, silent men because I viewed them as a shell to crack and always wanted to know what they were keeping back, and that is exactly the type of man Andrew is. Oftentimes, these men are also incredible listeners. Although our relationship started out as a regular relationship in Rexburg, where we saw each other just about every day and supported each other in our pursuits, much of our later relationship was phone-based, so listening was vital for the two of us, and since being married and having become parents, the importance of this characteristic has only multiplied.

"Being heard means being taken seriously.
It satisfies our need for self-expression
and our need to feel connected to others."


Michael P. Nichols, PhD

Of all my dreams, hopes, and expectations for myself as a mother, the one thing that I pray for and strive for the most is to have the ability that my mother has to be a good listener. I feel that any good relationship begins with listening.

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When we put ourselves aside to listen to someone else, they feel special and important; they feel that they are being taken seriously. Learning how to listen isn't easy, and most of us are pretty self-centered, to be perfectly honest (It's okay, it's totally normal and it doesn't mean your a self-absorbed jerk if you think about yourself sometimes). I know that getting to be as good a listener as I hope for will take time and practice, but that's what I desire for my daughter, for my children. I want to be the person they come home to who they can trust with any of their problems, who will listen to them and advise them when they're unsure of what to do. In all of my predicament conversations with my mom, I've noticed that once I've spilled what's been on my mind, uninterrupted, I'm much more receptive to what my mother has to say, and I have wound down enough emotionally to listen back, and when the conversation is over, I feel important, respected, and most of all, loved. This is the kind of relationship I want with my children (and husband, and... well, everyone really). I want my children to feel that they are taken seriously, that they are loved, and that they are important, because they are. They are the most important people in my life, and I want them to know that through my words, because I tell them that I love them and that they are important, bust most of all, I want them to know it through my actions. Through my ability to listen.

This weekend, we are all challenged to listen, although this listening may be different than what we are used to. We are all challenged to listen to a prophet's voice. This means that we prepare ourselves to hear whatever is to be said. Although it is impossible to interrupt them as they speak, we can still exhibit good practices of listening. We set distractions aside for a time so that we can focus on what is being said, we think about what they say and appreciate the fact that what they say is important.

The best part of this opportunity is that once we have listened with our full hearts and attention, our relationship with our Heavenly Father grows, because when we listen to the Prophet, we are actually listening to the Lord, who speaks through his prophet, Thomas S. Monson. The more we set aside time to listen, the more we learn, and the more peace and love we feel. I know this to be true because I have experienced it time and time again. Please make the effort to listen. You'll never regret being a good listener.

There are four sessions of General Conference. They begin tomorrow morning, Saturday, April 5 and conclude Sunday afternoon, April 6. The times of the sessions are (MDT):

Saturday
10:00 AM
2:00 PM

Sunday
10:00 AM
2:00 PM

Each session lasts two hours. They are available via live streaming here and on some TV and radio stations. For more information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, please visit lds.org
Come listen to a Prophet's voice!

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, Sue! You are so right about the importance of being a good listener. I think you are just the best and you have such a sweet way of writing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Brooke! I think being a good listener is the real secret to showing someone you love them, for sure!

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