wings and things

Listen to me!

on February 1, 2014

It is over ten years since I completed my PhD in cultural studies; my thesis focused on the importance of listening to the storying of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. It was not a scientific thesis (and at the time I had no idea what the difference between qualitative and quantitative research was); it was more of an exploratory study of the art and gift of listening.

My interest in how listening might help/give comfort was inspired by the various patients in the nursing home in which I worked at the time – in particular a guy who I called ‘Joe’ who seemed to think I was his long-deceased fiancee.

After I graduated, I rewrote the thesis as a book and it was published – We’ll be married in Fremantle. This is not a plug for the book, as it was published way back in 2001, and not a best seller by any means, although it was shortlisted for various prizes for nonfiction.

I remember Anthony being so proud of me, for the PhD and then the book (Ming was a little kid then and Anthony was in good health), but I also remember, after all those years of academic study, how the simple art of listening would always be important to me.

Listening isn’t as easy as it sounds because sometimes it is difficult to shut up, refrain from giving advice etc. I make this mistake all the time with Ants and Ming (for different reasons, obviously), but now I am re-learning my own advice – to just listen.

Tonight, Ming said, “Mum, just listen to me!” and I did, and I shut my mouth, and I learned more about my open-hearted son than I have for ages.

Okay, before I get too sentimental, we are getting some ducklings tomorrow to keep our only duck company – I am so excited!

44 responses to “Listen to me!

  1. Once, in the heat of a discussion with one of my daughters, she cried, “Mum, I just want to be heard!”

    Like you. I shut my mouth — and wow, the things I learned!

    Hugs — new ducklings. How exciting!

  2. You are a wise woman Jules!
    Diana xo

  3. Hard to take one’s own advice but super that it worked. Please post some duckling pictures!

  4. Judy says:

    I had no idea you had a PhD, Julie. Amazing to me – you are such a humble woman. You are so human and inspiring. All the things you’ve written to me are YOU. You are a shining star!

  5. You are so right about how listening, truly listening is much harder than it looks, it takes patience and compassion and sometimes self-control to refrain from jumping in. The best gift as parents that we can give our young adult children is exactly what you did for Ming, listen. Parenting never gets dull. Hugs Jules ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Colline says:

    Listening is an important skill and one we need to remember to use from time to time. Sometimes just the act of listening enables the speaker to think through what is troubling them.

  7. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography) says:

    Listening is a Great Art – not many people are particularly gifted in that area, but I think we do improve as we learn life’s lessons, Julie.

    I find it particularly hard to listen, as by the time a friend has finished their long ‘story’ these days, I’ve forgotten what they starting telling me in the first place (seriously!). That’s why I like ‘talking to people via email’. I can re-read their news several times if necessary, and then make an appropriate reply. In fact, I can write between their paragraphs in another colour and we can have a ‘conversation’ as leisure (as they reply again in another colour to my comments on their original news).

    There comes a time when you run out of ‘colours’ though, and then you know it’s time to shut up, go to bed, and start again another day!

    What I hate most is people talking AT me, instead of WITH me. My parents always did that. Conversation should be a two-way thing. And Parents should do a lot more listening, than talking. That way, they don’t have to lay awake wondering what their kids are getting up to at 2.00am in the morning.

    On that final note, I’m thrilled to hear you’re expecting again – don’t forget to take some ‘baby’ photos to share online.


  8. bulldog says:

    as I am for you…

  9. bulldog says:

    excited about the ducklings that is…

  10. FlaHam says:

    Julie, I have known you for over a year, and we have shared many different aspects of our lives, and while we have not sat down, looked each other in the eye and talked. I feel you have listened to every word I have written, and for that I thank you so very much. My skills as a good listener are still developing, and the hardest lesson I am learning is – SHUTING UP – it truly is a skill, one I hope to become good at some day. Thank you for sharing your life lessons. Take care, Bill

  11. You are constantly amazing me with your learning, re-learning, and teaching. You are a great mentor for us Julie.

  12. mimijk says:

    I had to take two semesters of active listening in grad school – I learned more (as we typically do), by keeping my mouth shut and my senses open, than in any other class.

  13. tootlepedal says:

    Sounds like a good idea. I might try it sometime, if I can stop talking for long enough.

  14. Trisha says:

    Congratulations on your past accomplishment of the book! I would love to buy it for a few people in my life…after being with them, I realize what a wonderful quality being a good listener is. Plus, even though I’m more of a listener than a talker, there are times I find myself not listening at all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Listening is something many people just can’t do they have to interrupt and say what they think the person is telling them or have to say their point of view they just can’t shut the hell up and listen. I am like that too at times I am not pretending to be any better than anyone else I am just saying I get this……………oh and I have your book “We’ll be married in Fremantle”

  16. A great reminder on the power of listening. Sweet you’re getting ducklings.

  17. ksbeth says:

    you are so right, julie. listening can be the hardest thing in the world sometimes. good to know more of your bio too )

  18. mrs fringe says:

    Smart as well as compassionate. โค
    Happy duckling getting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Rhonda says:

    I do think there are born listeners, just as their are born talkers, and storytellers. I’ve never been a good talker or teller of tales…but I’ve always been a good listener. EXCEPT…when my boys were becoming men. The hardest part of being a parent, is NOT parenting. It’s good that you are working on taking that step back and even better that Ming recognizes that, sometimes, he just needs you to listen.

    The greatest frustration/joy of raising children is never more prevalent than when they become the teachers of lessons we are not prepared for. But you’ll get it in no time Jules. You’ll adapt to the new dynamic just as you’ve adapted to everything else you’ve learned from these men in your life over these last tumultuous years.

    Have faith that you are as good a student of life as you have been (and continue to be) a teacher. Lord knows you’ve had more than your share of opportunities for both…you all have.

    Just know that ‘we’re listening’…xo

  20. Funny how our own learning and even wisdom turns around to teach us over again.

  21. Judith says:

    Listening’s an art form, and I try to remember to do it. But you’re right. Sometimes, it’s hard:) I’ve sure learned a lot when I get it right, though.

  22. You are so right about listening. I don’t think most of us know how to listen. I think I’m a good listener, but I also tend to interrupt and have a tendency to finish people’s sentences if they pause too long. It is an art very few of us master.

  23. It is one of the most difficult lessons that you have written about here, and yet one of the wisest. Thanks for sharing…

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