Confession: I am a conversation control freak.
It has been brought to my attention more than once that I am a Chatty Kathy. Never one to be quiet for long, I often have an anecdote to share, an opinion to flaunt, or advice to dole out. Usually, I blame this on my hearing loss. It is easier to control a conversation by doing all the talking, than it is for me to be quiet and simply listen.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when I asked a new friend to meet me for coffee. I had it all planned out: She and I would arrive at Starbucks, order our lattes, then I would banter on and on while she sat mutely. Wrong. This friend needed to talk, and she craved someone to really listen. I spent the next hour and a half reading her lips and hoping that I wouldn’t miss any of her words. It felt odd for me to go more than five minutes without saying anything.
Why is it so hard for me to just listen?
Could my inability to keep my lips sealed and my ears open be because of having hearing loss—or is it more that I am a control freak?
One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, blogged about the issue of control. The post’s title: “How to Know If You’re a Controlling Person.” One of the analogies he used was to imagine me and someone standing on our pillows, having a conversation. If I tended to try to do most of the talking by trying to persuade the person to accept my point of view, I would be stepping on her pillow. Bottom line: I needed to stay on my own pillow and respect that other person’s pillow or point of view.
How many times have I tried to dictate conversations, only to offend or hurt someone’s feelings? Wouldn’t it be more respectful to allow whoever is talking to do so without butting in?
It got me to thinking about what I say to people. If I am the only one talking, I would hope that my words aren’t foolish or presumptuous. I would hope that the words are wise and truly helpful. If they aren’t, I need to remember that shutting my mouth from time to time isn’t a bad thing.
When I met my friend for coffee, my eyes were open to how selfish I had been by always talking. Learning to truly listen—even with a hearing loss—is a gift my friend needed that day.
The only thing I can truly control is my tongue.