Gail Patricia Caldwell
October 04, 1953 - June 10, 2017
As I have mentioned previously Gail and I met during our tenure with The Toronto Distress Centre.
The Centre is a phone hotline. At its inception in 1962 it was relatively unique. A call centre where people in crisis could phone in, and for the most part, someone would just listen to them, without telling them what they needed to do.
(Not all call centres of this nature work in this way. Some are quite directive, being faith-based, or policy based on fixing people.)
Listening was a major skill that was taught along with other aspects of crisis intervention.
But listening and hearing are two distinctly different phenomena.
I remember being taught to listen for "what is not being said, for what is being left out."
My late father used to tell me that "You can find out anything about anybody any time you want. Stop talking. Just listen."
Listening, real listening, requires that you put yourself on hold, your wants, your needs, your desire to impart sagely advice, your desire to help and correct someone's errant ways. All of these things no longer count at the point of deciding to really listen. What is going on for the listener, in any way, shape or form, just doesn't matter. The person who is speaking, the one you are listening to has the only information that counts.
Most people hear your words when you are speaking, but only so much that they detect a blank space, a pause in the conversation as their cue to jump in. And they jump in with what they were thinking about saying while you were not quite finished talking. The segue could be " Well that's just like........" or "The same thing happened to me when...." And so the conversation focus gets shifted to something or someone else.
This is not a give and take normal conversation where one talks, then the other jumps in, and the flow goes back and forth like a ping pong ball.
Listening is a focus on one person, giving them your complete and undivided attention.
Listening requires effort, and some determination to keep your thoughts to yourself so that you can be completely present to the other. Being completely present you can let their words, their story impact you, and help you understand where they are coming from, and what they are facing.
Listening demands that you keep your worldly experience and wisdom silent. You are not helping when you try to fix someone's problems or difficulties with what worked for you, or what you've "read recently that made a lot of sense".
Listening is a rare commodity.
And in the community of the bereaved, of which I am now a lifetime member, it is exactly what we want.
Started by Robert Flowers on October 15, 2017