Listening to others wouldn’t make my resume of strengths. I was made aware of this several years ago by a psychological drawing test that a work colleague used on us. He had just been on a course to promote, well, actually I’m not sure what it was to promote i had stopped listening by then i suspect, but he came back and shared his new-found knowledge. From doing this test, i discovered I don’t listen as well as I thought i did.
Bored one morning in our City office we leapt at the chance to be distracted from all things Insurance related. He simply asked us to draw a picture of a pig. From this we could ascertain a lot about ourselves, so we were told.
I drew the pig above. Actually i recreated the pig i drew that day above, but i’m sure you worked that out. As it happened, we all had different interpretations when it came to drawing this farm yard animal. George Orwell would have been proud of our efforts.
The stance of the pig, whether it is facing left, right or face on tells you how you tend to deal with life. Left facing was pessimist, right facing you were an optimist and face on exactly that. Although I’m sure i remember him using the word ‘aggressive’. I may have made that bit up but I’m sure that’s what i remember his look telling me.
As he is telling us all the subliminal meanings of the various parts our drawings we excitedly look down to see what it reveals about us.
The eyes, mouth, trotters and how much detail is paid to these tells you whether you are a detail person and how much attention & care you pay to the small things in your life. The tail represented your passion for life and the size of the ears how good a listener you were.
I looked at my drawing. I had forgotten to draw ears. My bank of desk roared with laughter. My wing man at the time a lovely posh boy called Joe, nearly fell off his chair he laughed so hard. Hardly surprising is it he managed to say in-between his fit of giggles.
I was dumbstruck. How could I forget to put ears on my pig ? I’m a good listener, aren’t I?
I forget a lot of things, but i have never forgot that and it resonates with me from time to time and i make a concerted effort to work on my listening skills. Like today. Out topping up the contents of our fridge i got to the check out and saw the familiar face i see every week or so. Usually laden down with my own thoughts and concerns and trying to entertain two babies wedged in the trolley doesn’t leave me a lot of time to make small talk. Today was different and with her customer service training in full swing she asked me how I and the girls were. We were fine thank you I replied as the girls offered up smiles full of crisps that i had stuffed into their mouths to keep them occupied and quiet.
Then for some reason i remembered the pig and I stopped mid packing, looked her directly in the eye and asked her how she was and how she was doing in this heat wave we are having.
I’m ok, thank you. I’m…. coping…. then she trailed off and started up again, its difficult though, being…. ill.
She looked at me meaningfully and i didn’t know whether it was right to enquire further about her illness. Clearly she wanted to talk. So i skirted around it and asked her how she was managing to cope.
She went on to tell me inconsequential things and i still don’t know what she is ill with but she seemed so pleased to be telling me and that someone was listening. We chatted for a further five minutes as i packed my shopping away, about a holiday she was hoping to take with her family to a wedding where she would see siblings and cousins she hadn’t seen for a while. This was a huge deal for her and something she had looked forward to during what had clearly been a difficult time. As i said my goodbye i noticed that she seemed a little more upbeat and all i had done was actively listen. Thats all it took.
In the car on the way home i realise that I’m so preoccupied with my own life and telling anyone who will listen about ME that I often forget to listen, really listen to others. It’s a skill that needs to be cultivated and few people do it, or are good at it, i for one fall into that category.
I’m really hoping to work on my listening skills this week when i finally, after weeks of police and background checks and further charitable hoops I’ve had to jump through meet my new ‘friend’ through the Charity Befriending service i have volunteered for. (www.mrssmithmusings.com/funny-how-it-all-falls-away) The lady i will meet weekly for a chat is called Penny (weirdly thats not her real name, but one she has chosen to answer to since she was 9 years old on the discovery that her Father wanted to call her that before she was born and who died months after she was). She lives close by and two years ago was widowed after a lifetime of being married. Her sons live overseas in the East and her daughter lives West, she is living alone somewhere in-between, feeling isolated and without the confidence to try to pick up the fabric of her life in what for sure are her sunset years.
I will keep the memory of my pig picture at the forefront of my mind as i foster a friendship with Betty. I really want to try to get the message over to her that I’m here and I’m listening….