If you watch, you’ll see it in every group.
You talk about something, any topic – your kids, your car, your frustrations with your busy schedule – and whoever you’re talking with waits for you to finish your story, only to jump in with a similar story of their own.
It happened this morning at Master Swim. In the lane beside mine, as we did our 10 minutes of vertical kicking (it’s Tuesday!), one woman shared a story of a friend whose expensive SUV was keyed and a nasty note was left on her windshield because she parked too close to the other car. The story was long and detailed, and the woman spoke to the other women in her lane, our heads bobbing above the water as we kicked down, down, down, until the clock told us to rest.
My back was to them, as I did my own kicking, and my view was a sky so smitten with streaks of clouds, there was an actual formation of a heart above me. At times, it looked like the wings of an angel, other times, a great big loving heart.
After that story finished, a woman who was listening told a story about someone else’s car debacle. No keying, no nasty note, nothing really at all similar except that it was a story about a car and it was unfavorable. She shared it perhaps to connect, to commiserate, to say, I know exactly how you feel.
Which is why we do this. We share our visions and our versions to let others know we are all in this together.
And yet, doing so takes away from the immediacy and the importance of the original story told.
We don’t even see it. We don’t see that in our haste to add something, to jump in with our own precious stories, we negate the person who braved the silence to speak in the first place.
In a way, this is how we know we are alive. We are important. We are here. We share and we are heard.
When someone else jumps in with their own telling, we cease to be heard. We are done. They’ve moved on.
I noticed this on my writing retreat last month on Mackinac Island. It’s natural and it’s common in group settings. I noticed myself doing it and so I stopped talking. I started listening. A lot.
All my life, my wail has been you’re not listening to me. Doesn’t matter who it is or what the context. It keeps coming up again and again, which confirms my fear that it’s not a whole world turning a deaf ear toward me; it’s something within me that needs healing.
Even when people try very hard to listen, sometimes my words say you just don’t hear what I’m saying. They’re listening, but they’re not hearing.
And so it was a reckoning of my own to see myself doing it to others. Stop talking, Lynne, just listen, I admonished myself.
To be a good teacher, you have to listen. You have to guide others to fly on their own. It can’t be about you.
So I’ve fallen quiet. My work benefits from it. My students, my coaching clients, too. It’s time to listen. Time to let others soar.
And in that way, I, too, will take flight. After all, we all have our time in the sun. We just have to take turns.