Whenever I’m asked what qualities do I like in a person, I always respond, “Someone who is a good listener.”
Few things annoy me more than someone who talks incessantly, barely pausing to let you into the conversation. Even more aggravating, someone who talks over you, as if what you’re saying doesn’t matter.
To me, that’s not just bad manners, it’s a sign of disrespect. Like, what you have to say is so important that you can’t be bothered to wait until I’m done with my sentence before you start in again?
Being a good listener is important to me for another reason. As a journalist, it’s imperative that I have the patience to hear someone’s story without interruption, to get their words and tone, and the context, exactly right.
Last night, I was reading a Tony Hillerman novel and came across a paragraph that captures my sentiments exactly. And if you’ve never read Hillerman, you should. Few writers convey the Native American experience as he does.
From “Coyote Waits”:
“Jacobs was silent for a while, thinking about it, her face full of sympathy. She was a talented listener. He had noticed it before. When you talked to this woman, she attended. She had all her antennae out, focused on the speaker. The world was shut out. Nothing mattered but the words she was hearing. Listening was ingrained in the Navajo culture. One didn’t interrupt. One waited until the speaker was finished, gave him a moment or two to consider additions, or footnotes or amendments, before one responded. But even Navajos too often listened impatiently. Not really listening, but framing their reply. Jean Jacobs really listened. It was flattery, and Chee knew it, but it had its effect.”