Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Listen and Learn

That was the topic of a recent Al-Anon meeting.

This particular meeting features a slogan or Just for Today once a month. I appreciated this one because it’s a slogan that doesn’t often get much discussion. And I know my Higher Power is working in my life because this is a tool I need.

I have a listening deficit. I never realized this before, but now I can clearly see it’s part and parcel of my disease.

This particular defect of character was aggravatingly brought to my attention about a dozen years ago. I was dating a guy who used to get furious with me because (he said) I always interrupted him when he was talking.

“I do not,” I said, interrupting him to argue the point.

So every time I interrupted him, he’d point it out to me.

“There,” he’d say. “You just interrupted me again.”

It was infuriating. Probably because he was right. My stock response to someone pointing out a defect of mine was to deny or get angry, or both.

If I ever run into this guy again, I need to thank him because made me acutely aware of when I do this.

For a while.

I’ve caught myself doing it again. A lot.

If I’m honest, I will admit to less than honorable reasons for interrupting someone.

Something the other person said reminds me of something and I’m afraid I might forget it by the time they are finished.

I interrupt because I think I have the answer to some problem. Or I think relating my own experience in this area is very, very important to share.

Or I want to demonstrate how smart/educated/sympathetic/right I am.

The common denominator, of course, is me.

“Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles,” the Big Book says. In my line of sponsorship, we read this section out loud as part of our step work. But we change any references to the alcoholic with “I” and references to “drinking” with “thinking.”

Every time I read this with a sponsee, it rings more true. Every time I read this I’m reminded that my disease is just the flip side of the same malady the alcoholic suffers from. We are really not that much different. Our diseases just manifest themselves differently.

The real trouble with all this self-will run riot is that it’s the opposite of humility, and I need to be humble if I am to get better. For without humility, I am not teachable. If I know everything, if I have all the answers, nothing you can say can have any value to me.

Yet, if there is anything I’ve learned in this program, it’s that you never know who your teacher is going to be.

If I am busy formulating my response while you are speaking, then I’m not hearing you. I’ve missed what you’ve just said. And maybe you’ve said something I needed to hear. But I won’t know that.

Meetings are the perfect place to practice. It strikes me as genius that we must listen without responding until it is our turn to talk. But instead of thinking about what I’m going to share when it’s my turn, I’m going to really try to just listen instead.

Maybe I’ll learn something.


  1. You must have an awesome line of sponsorship! I love your sharing today and can sooooo identify with it. Keeping my mouth shut and ears open is a daily practice with me. I'm better now but have to be vigilant every day.


  2. Amen! Such wisdom and honesty in your words...words I take to my heart this morning...I seek to listen more to others and myself...so often I am thinking or distracted while I am listening...thank you for reminding me how important and valuable it is to just listen. XX

  3. Listening is a combination of respect, opening our heart as well as ears, treating others as we want to be treated, being attentive, being in the present and not planning a response. Very good point and I know each of us works on this at least occasionally if not most of the time.

  4. Thanks for the important reminder to be an attentive, generous listener. What a gift that is to give others.

  5. I, too, have a listening defect (although it's getting better, along with the rest of me).

  6. Kathy, I am so glad you are coming up on my reader...I LOVE reading you. As I read this post I thought "she is me or I am her." lol Being teachable...it is actually a relief to understand that I do NOT have all of the answers. I used to think I did...but thankfully I got knocked on my ass enough times to see that it was all an illusion.

  7. Thanks so much for your share. I have the same tendency towards interruption and consider it one of my more annoying character defects! Alanon meetings have been a great place for me to practice listening without interrupting, because the "no crosstalk" rule takes my opinion outof the equation. It's such good practice, and I'm learning to use that same control out in the "real world" too.

  8. I can listen to others attentively. I find though that I would rather listen than talk. Perhaps my humility is more about lack of self rather than more of self. Something for me to ponder.

  9. Appreciate you post Kathy, and thank you for your comments to me. Glad when you post. Miss you. Blessings.

  10. This is a very convicting post....I am asking God to help me with this, too....

    He is showing me that listening to others without interupting is giving them a beautiful gift....that He changes them just by my listening. I bring His love and presence into the atmosphere by listening. As I listen and accept others without fixing, He does the healing. Yep! Very Humbling.

    The funny thing is all the so called wisdom I have to share came from God anyway. (smile)


  11. Such a great post Kathy. I have heard in meetings that many have trouble being good listeners and formulate their shares while others are sharing, myself included. I have also heard that others have a hard time sharing, but are good listeners. What a blessing indeed that Al-Anon has us practice both listening and sharing. Great reminder for us all. Love, Renee