Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On Hold

I’m listening to repetitive soft rock music, courtesy of my bank, which has me on hold. I’m imagining some mundane 80s or 90s romantic film, scenes transitioning between a man and woman doing their daily routines in their separate worlds: brushing their teeth, opening their umbrellas, walking down the street to the bus stop, or frowning at a parking ticket on their windshield. The audience watching this film knows that the people are destined to meet. Their lives will be forever transformed, their blissful romance blossoming, their boring worlds colliding and forming something spectacular. These people, let’s call them Guy and Ines, are now rid of their lonely routines, which had been accompanied only by a dull, repetitive keyboard music. The audience thinks, “They used to be ordinary people like us, but now their lives are marvelously happy and exciting. How romantic! Then the music abruptly stops and a woman’s voice thanks me for holding.

I came to the realization today that I should try to work on my listening skills, not because I’m a bad listener, but because some people don’t appreciate my style of listening. Occasionally, someone wants to let off steam, and I respond to them the same way I like people to respond to me, by relating. If someone says, “I had a dream that I was eating a taco and the taco had Donald Trump’s face in it! It was so scary!” I might say, “Yikes! That sounds terrifying. I had a dream that Anthony Hopkins took me mirror shopping in this really creepy antique store and I was trying to get away from him!” My aim is not to steal anyone’s thunder or shift the focus back to me. Really, it’s just to say, “Hey, we both have weird dreams!” I suppose it’s the teacher in me that so badly wants to make connections. I don’t want students to just listen to me and then never relate to the words and concepts I’m teaching them, to never apply the skills I’m teaching to their own lives.

My friend Kelley, who has a sophisticated understanding of people, tells me that most people just want to be heard. I know that’s important. People need to feel heard and sometimes it seems people aren’t paying attention when really they are. I also enjoy knitting while talking, and some people find that distracting. Trying to relate to what someone is saying by sprinkling in your own anecdotes can be similar to multi-tasking when someone is talking. It drives some people crazy.

I suppose that’s why I need to practice the art of being put on hold. Only then can I resist the urge to interrupt and share. I am on hold, in the thrall of whatever someone else is saying or whatever music is playing. This can be especially tedious if the hold music is repetitive, like the kind my bank plays. But I think it will be good for me.  

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