I am a bad listener.
I am not sure if this is a recent development or if I have always been this way due to a combo of a roaming imagination, a partly deaf left ear, and a resilient hard-head. Often I find myself in my own head planning my next step as a conversation rolls on in front of my nose. Listening is something I can turn on or off depending on my setting, but now it seems to be set to off more and more often. Perhaps this is a sign of the times or my own generation, as if I am pre-disposed to be a self-centered stereotype of a millinnial. I apologize, but I find even this admittance hypocritical without breaking it down to the root and stimulating change.
A moment of spring semester comes back to me to exemplify the problem I do not want to admit. One of my professors I deeply respect was giving me some pointers for my thesis, a touchy subject. I automatically became defensive and the listening side of my brain went to Hawaii. He knows me well and before I could make my compelling argument of my own perfection, he stops me. "Becca, let me finish." And you know, he was right. My role should be the listener more often than not.
I was on the opposite end of the tug-o-war this week at clay camp. I had one little girl who would not listen even though, I as the teacher, was telling her things that would help her little creation survive the kiln. By the end of the week she was giving me the silent treatment and I was fed up. It was infuriating! I had ten other students to help and could not let one student capitalize my attention, yet even though I was spent, I still wanted her to have a good time and to go home with a pice she was proud of.
In the week following the mass shooting in Orlando and the terrible loss stemming from inconceivable hate, I am struck by the two sides of experience, patiently listening and the desire to be right. As blame is passed and political discussions fire, what if we step back and simply listen? What would the conversations sound like if they were balanced between truly listening and calmly discussing? Gun violence and LGBTQI equality are hot button topics, so it is very easy to switch the listening side of our brains to off and shout out opinions, escalating to be heard over the roar. We sit back in a stubborn silent treatment while our project becomes a smushed pancake of mud.
What if millinnials were known as listeners?