“A wise man hears one word and understands two.” (Yiddish Proverb) – from my favorite source for quotes, a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.
Jack went on to write about reading between the lines and understanding that there is usually more to what someone is saying than just the words that they may use. One must listen for nuances in the delivery of those words and observe the body language that is also going on. Unfortunately, too many people re so busy thinking about what they want to say next to pay the kind of attention to the speaker that they need to use, in order to really “hear” what they are saying.
What do you hear when the other party is speaking in a conversation? Do you sense and feel the pain that may be there? Can you see that, beyond the brave front that the words may be putting up, there is fear or sorrow or concern that needs to be shared and needs your empathy and help? Can you hear the excitement or joy that the other person may be trying to share with you? Do you listen for the cues that a follow-up question is more important that what you may have wanted to say next?
If all that you hear is “blah, blah, blah”, while you are waiting to jump in with your next thought; then you need to work on being a better listener and perhaps a better friend or person. People have conversations because they want to share things from their lives. They may be looking for reassurance or for help. They may just think that something that they did is interesting enough that you might find it interesting, too. Maybe they just need to “get it off their chest” and are hoping that you provide that sympathetic ear.
Not everyone has time for a full medical report from everyone they meet when they ask “How are you doing?”; however, perhaps that is an opening to set up a longer meeting later to discuss whatever it is that they need to share. If you really don’t care; then don’t ask. If you do care; then either listen now or listen later, but listen.
So, be a wise man and a good friend and listen between the lines for the unspoken signals that indicate that the person that you are talking to may have deeper needs than are being expressed in the words. Someday you’ll be the one who needs a friend to listen to your problems and you’ll be glad that they listened for the words that were between the lines. What will you hear today?