Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Listen to This

Years ago my parents came to Austin to visit me on Thanksgiving. As a relatively poor person then I couldn't afford to travel to see them, so I only went up to their place in Kansas at Christmas.  For years I had been cooking a turkey and everything else for my friends and roommates who would also stay in town. So even though I was very experienced at this, my Mom said we had to go out for Thanksgiving dinner. No amount of arguing could convince her otherwise (Dad always went along), so out we went. We tried multiple restaurants and they either had a 2-hour wait list or were out of turkey. We finally stopped at one place that at least had food, but pretty much all we got was whatever they had left. I think I had sausage.

This has been an ongoing thing in my life: no one will listen to me.

In my parents case I'm pretty sure it's because I'm the youngest child and still just a little kid more attune to playing basketball and roller skating then adult activities.

I believe this may have been the main reason I took up writing (you've bought my books, right?). Oh sure, I really love telling stories, but it means something special to me that there might actually be people out there reading my writing and, well, in effect listening to me.
Sadly, it's more than parents who won't listen. As you can guess (this is a blog about The War Between Men and Women after all) many of my former girlfriends didn't listen to me.  It would range from where we should go on a date: Her: Where do you want to go to eat? Me: How about Hut's? No, I don't like that. Me: Where do you want to go then? I don't care; to not listening to instructions on doing something: Me: Make sure you loosen the lug nuts a little before jacking up the car. Her, later after not changing the tire: I was unable to remove the lug nuts because the tire kept turning.
Just recently this woman became very angry with me because she came to pick up a ladder I had (I was out, told her exactly where to find it) and she picked up a small step stool instead. A completely wasted trip to her. It didn't matter that I told her explicitly where to find it, it somehow was my fault for the wasted trip.

My brother might be as bad as girlfriends about listening to me. It could be a combination of still thinking I'm the little guy who crept into his room to listen to his records, or because of the inherent competition between brothers. This happens most often when traveling. For example I'll say go down a certain street and he decides someway else might be faster. It isn't of course, but he sure wasn't going to listen to this little squirt.

Some people will say these examples are more of a case of not agreeing rather than not listening. However, in the context of "he won't listen to me" it is not a hearing or agreeing problem, it's a paying attention to me problem. i.e. "Well, I'm sure not going to listen to that guy."  I may have sage advice, but they are not going to take it.
I also believe this is a habit/plight of most Americans today due to social media. It's the "Instant Message Syndrome." People are so used to short blurbs of communication they will not—or are no longer capable of—listening to longer messages. So if you say the stepladder in the garage is hanging on the wall, all they pick up is ladder and garage.

Okay, I admit this syndrome is creeping into my own life in the way of emails. I'm notorious for skimming my email and sometimes not picking up the full message. I actually blame Robert Ludlum for this. I love his books, such as "The Bourne Identity," et al, but I think he sometimes goes into too much detail about the surroundings or scene. So I skim to get to the action. I ascribe to Hemingway's belief that you should be brief.

So I'm working on getting better with my emails, I just hope I can convince those around me to do the same when I talk to them. Until then, don't be surprised to see me walking down the street with someone and constantly rolling my eyes. It's becoming a tic.


  1. I recommend the decision strategy where you can veto any suggestion, but only if you're willing to provide a counter-suggestion. Of course, that also only works when people are listening to each other.

    On the e-mails, if you get a hundred a day, it's tough and perhaps even crazy to read them all thoroughly.

    Meanwhile, my condolences on people not listening. Listening is really one of the greatest gifts we can give each other.

  2. I like the decision strategy but sadly, most of the people I know are too stubburn/strongminded (I have a feeling it's a Williams trait, although I'm admitting to nothing) and usually only want their strategy to be considered. You are absolutely right about emails although I think I need a better filter system that will help me recognize immediately if I need to heed closer attention or if I can skim. Hey, thanks for listening (reading) my blog and commenting. Shouldn't you be in Norway by now?

  3. Their strategy being... you decide, and I will veto everything? Ugh. My friends are better than your friends. :-)

    My boyfriend sends things from various senders into various folders to inspect later. I know that if I do this, I will ignore those other folders forever. So I have no useful advice on this problem!

    I am back from Norway! Back from Spain, too! Need to save up for a few years before traveling again!

    One day I will write blog entries about these great trips! Really!