May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Last week I had quite an unusual experience, which fortunately I was able to laugh about. The alternative would have been to cry, and I cannot waste my tears on anything so ridiculous.

I received a telephone call while sitting at my desk at The Link and the following conversation took place.

“Hello, is this Nina Glick?” “Yes.” “This is ——- from ——- Health Services. We are the company that supplied your husband with the equipment that he needed while he was at home. How is he doing?” I answered, “Actually he passed away.” At which point this brilliant woman answered, “Perfect, does he need anything else?” I responded, “No, we are fine, thank you.”

I put down my cell phone and felt as though I had just dreamed the conversation. Fortunately I cracked up from the total stupidity of the moment and lack of professionalism that this woman showed. Even more, I realized that she had obviously not heard a word of what I had said because she was not listening.

How many of us choose not to listen when speaking with others? Walking down the street and meeting someone with a “How’re you doing?” and continuing to walk, not having one intention of really hearing the answer is only too common in the society that we live in today. Everyone is in a great rush.

Another challenge most of us have in listening is not wanting to hear what the person speaking with us is saying, for a different reason. Parents who attend their parent-teacher meetings are usually elated and overjoyed when they hear how well their little Dovie is doing. How many actually hear what the teacher is saying when he or she mentions that Dovie is not doing well in several subjects, or that Dovie seems to be restless or angry at times? Some parents choose to not hear what is being told to them. We all want to hear that our children are perfect and, truth be told, many of them are not. They are charming, cute and sweet at home, but their behaviors at school might not be exhibited anywhere else or may be those that we have chosen to blind ourselves to.

Today I had completely the opposite experience of someone not listening. As some might know, I have been spirited away to Puerto Rico by my daughter Malkie, and it is most noticeable that practically everyone here only speaks Spanish. As a result one becomes acutely aware when you hear English being spoken.

I asked one English-speaking man where he was from and he said that he was from Boston. I immediately responded that my husband was also from Boston, from the city of Malden. The man excitedly told me that he and his wife were also from Malden. We laughed about the coincidence and then he asked where my husband was. When I explained that he had passed away three months ago he immediately made the sign of the cross and took me in his arms, gave me a hug and told me how sorry he was. I was very moved by his reaction. He was actually listening to our conversation and was visibly shaken.

The fact that we are all so busy does not give us the license to move on when someone responds to an innocent question. My suggestion would be to not ask if you do not want to hear.

I have found myself in the last little while being asked by many how I am doing. What I appreciate more than anything is that anyone asking me realizes that I have not been doing so well, but has not hesitated to still ask me. As difficult as it has been to listen, although not much is said, they still call and take the time to ask. That is what real listeners do. They do not pretend to ask and then keep walking. I realize the discomfort that some feel in approaching me. Their short momentary actions are greatly appreciated.

I think that we all need to up the ante with regard to our listening skills. If you are asking the cashier in Grand and Essex how she is and you are not listening it really would be better not to ask. I see it happen all of the time. “Hi. How are you?” As the employee is about to answer the customer has her face hidden in her cell phone screen, assuring the employee that there was no sincerity in the question whatsoever.

Let’s try to do better in listening and being prepared to hear the answer with sincere and honest enthusiasm.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

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