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Just Listen

"Mom," said Brenda a couple of months ago, "I want to place an order for 50 strawberry tarts."  I have a small pie business, and the tarts were for a special lunch at the school where she works.

"No, problem," I said--she didn't need the tarts for several weeks. Brenda is well-organised and always plans ahead. I am not entirely as organised as she.

However, as the delivery date (a.k.a. the "nick of time") approached, I found the perfect recipe. The process involved was a little more complicated than I'd anticipated, and I was surprised at the weight of strawberries needed for the recipe, which was for only 6 tarts and would have to be multiplied many times. And I would need to buy tartlet tins.

Getting tartlet tins on short notice proved to be impossible. I checked first on Amazon. Although I found the perfect tins there, they would not arrive in time. A local store that promised to carry the tins had them-- but only two! I was grateful when I found an alternative--a set of extra-large muffin tins that would serve the purpose.

Then we talked. "Brenda, I found the perfect recipe," I said and launched into a description of the decadent pastry, made with butter and cream. I told her how the shells were baked first, then coated on the bottoms with a layer of melted semi-sweet dark chocolate to keep it flaky, after which they'd be topped with strawberries and a glaze.

Brenda sounded a little anxious. "That sounds like a lot of work, Mom," she said.

"But isn't that what you wanted?" I asked.

"Well...I wanted jam tarts," she said with some hesitation in her voice, apparently not wanting to hurt my feelings.

"Jam tarts??"

"Yes, with your pie pastry," she said.

I laughed with relief that all I had to make was 50 jam tarts. I was so thankful that we talked--or rather, Brenda talked, and I heard this time.

The tale of the 50 tarts that nearly went awry is funny, but the need to listen better is pressing.

Someone once wisely said that God gave us two ears and only one mouth so that we would use our ears more than our mouths, but I have always found this wisdom easier to agree with than to practice. I remember vaguely that Brenda had mentioned "jam" when ordering the tarts, but I hadn't really "heard" it, or wanted to hear it. My mind leapt to "something else," possibly because a simple jam tart didn't seem good enough. I lost sight of what Brenda was asking for.

It would be an improvement if we asked more questions and unburdened ourselves of preconceptions and our own projected ideas and background stories when listening to others.

This week I found a quote by author and speaker, Joseph Pine on listening that I'd written down a while ago. It is so good that I want to remember it:
The experience of being understood versus interpreted is so compelling you can charge admission.
With the quote fresh in my mind, I had tea with a friend who needed to talk to someone who would "just listen."  I tried to keep myself, with all of the personal stories that her issue triggered in my brain out of the conversation.  Every time I was about to take the conversational ball back out of her court, I managed to stop myself. The longer she talked, the more at peace, she looked. I think that she really was receiving the gift of "being understood versus interpreted." It wasn't a passive conversation on my part, but I focussed on quieting my mind enough to listen better than I usually do. In the end, I felt that I had been of useful service, me, my ears and my closed mouth.

And I didn't even charge admission!


Jane said…
So refreshing to read your post. Love to you and all your family. Jane
Belinda Burston said…
Ah, Jane, thank you for reading. I love you, too!

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