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  • Writer's pictureNora Walsh Kerr

Listen Up

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

woman listening to elderly woman
photo by Kim Grotto Howard

“It takes a great man to be a good listener.” ― Calvin Coolidge

When was the last time you put down the phone, the work, the remote, the [fill in the blank], and truly listened to a loved one? Maybe it’s your persistent child, who is eager to share about what that happened at recess today. Maybe it’s your spouse, who is looking for an empathetic ear about a rough day at work. Maybe it’s your mom or dad, who is always the first to ask you a series of questions about your day or about the grandkids, but secretly would love to be asked about his or her life?

It should be said there is no judgment here. I struggle at listening like the rest of us, and understandably so when you consider our surroundings. The cell phones, the housework, the little people, the pets—all pull for our attention with equal weight.

Writing life stories has taught me a lot about listening. When done right, listening can be surprisingly exhausting. Focusing all your energy on another, and taking on that experience like it’s your own—that’s the definition of empathy. This job has also made me aware how poor a listener I can be when I’m off the clock. Awareness is the first step towards change, right?

So, this holiday season, let’s cultivate that lost art of everyday listening. Put down the phone when a friend or family member might need an ear. Most things can wait, and there really is no bigger compliment than to give the people we love our full attention. It shows care, compassion, and that they matter. You might just be surprised by what you hear.


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