I’m paraphrasing here since I have lost the book with the original quote. But, now deceased former newspaper columnist, Lewis Grizzard once wrote something to the effect that “there are two kinds of husbands, those who don’t listen and those who pretend they do.” Grizzard was somewhat of a practitioner of that mindset having been married several times and having been by his own repeated admissions a less than stellar listener who also said that “God gave me two ears so that what goes in one can go out the other.”
Most of the marriage counseling pundits – Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, Judge Judy, Dear Abby and many others too numerous to mention – expound to a nauseating degree on the importance of listening in trying to nurture meaningful and lasting relationships. Having been involved in three legally binding relationships and more not legally binding than are prudent, I guess I fall somewhere nearer the Lewis Grizzard model than toward the assorted counselors’ model.
But I’ve made a concerted effort recently to improve my listening skills now that I’m too old and too tired to practice not listening, which I’ve come to conclude takes almost as much energy and concentration as pretending to listen. Both, in my case, have resulted in prolonged legal wrangling and the corresponding legal fees.
Like losing weight, it’s easier to talk about becoming a better listener than to actually make it happen. To prove that I’m truly making an effort to enhance my listening skills consider the following:
Several days ago as Oreo and I were sharing our early morning cup of coffee, she was poring over and through the newspaper advertising circulars and commented that chain saws were on sale at Sears. Immediately, my new found listening skills kicked in, and since I have been thinking a chain saw would be a welcome addition to the tool shed, and since it’s her idea… well, you see where this is headed.
The one thing I have learned over the years is that these kinds of things always have a better chance of becoming reality when it is “her” idea. But rather than get too impulsive about this I decided to wait.
So as I have been mulling this thing over and as Christmas is just around the corner and Oreo “wants” a chainsaw what better way to exercise my newfound listening skills than to prove to her how carefully I have been listening to her every word and put a shiny new Poulan model under the tree. She will be ecstatic when she opens her present and lo and behold… well, you get the message.
Along with my newly honed listening skills has come an expanded and heightened level of sensitivity. This has partly come about from the sensitivity training class my last lawyer suggested. People end up in sensitivity training class because they have made more than a few bad judgments. So what you learn is to run things by friends or associates before acting out impulsively. I ran the chain saw idea by my friend Art who said it sounded like something he might do, but said he also envisioned a remake of the movie “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” My co-worker Cherri suggested I might also want to begin watching garage sales for a cot since she thinks I may be spending a lot of time in the tool shed bonding with Oreo’s chainsaw.
Sometimes this listening thing gets awfully complicated.
John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.