What Listening Taught Me

[This was originally posted here.]

It’s amazing how you can know someone for your entire life, and yet know so little about them.

Take for instance, your parents (GASP!). I’ll use my dad as an example.

Growing up, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that interested in getting to know my parents as people. After all … they were my parents, and that was that. It was so easy to cast judgement on them without listening to what they had to say.

But things have changed. Especially now that I am writing a memoir, for the first time, I’m interested in their past: the trials they’ve faced; the heartaches they’ve suffered; the joys they’ve experienced — not just as a writer, but as a fellow friend.

And so, this weekend while I was home for Easter, I asked my dad to start from the beginning.

Usually I’m great at interrupting him when he speaks, but this time I just listened to what he had to say.

For about two hours I soaked in the stories of my dad’s past. I watched his face grow solemn as he talked about his mom’s death. I watched a smile creep across his face as he recounted memories of putting a tractor back together. I watched his eyes fill with tears as he spoke about some of the hardest moments of his life. And as I listened, I started to understand my dad more and more.

I began to learn from and relate to him. No longer was I absorbed in my own little world, I was a part of something bigger. No longer was my dad simply “dad,” but I began to see he was inherently just like me.

As a child, I could judge him all I wanted to, but now, there was no room, place or need for judgement.

An open ear has a way of casting ignorant judgements aside.

It’s so easy to judge people. Our coworkers, neighbors, classmates, even friends. However, I’m learning that the more I listen, the harder it becomes to judge people and the easier it becomes to understand and love them.

Knowing someone’s story has a way of tearing down walls.

Choosing to listen to my dad changed my view and opinion of him. My hunch is, if you start to listen to the stories of those around you, your opinion of them might change, too.

Chances are you have more in common with others, even your greatest enemies, than you think.

What has listening taught you? Do you find it easier to judge than to listen?