If pictures can speak a thousand words, what can voices show without pictures for us to see? Can we “see” such things as joy or sorrow when someone speaks? If we don’t hear laughter or we don’t hear crying, would we still understand if happiness or sadness was what someone was feeling? Do we catch hesitations, pauses, and the rise and fall of tones in someone’s voice when they communicate? How often are we listening to another’s voice for its pause only so that we can voice what we wish to say?
Have you ever closed your eyes when listening to someone speak? How often do you talk with a stranger on the phone in which what they look like is known only through your own imagining? Some of my responsibilities in the past involved talking on the phone to the same customer service representatives week after week. When I was fortunate to meet one of them in person, they never looked like my mind’s belief. I anticipate they felt the same when they saw me.
I’ve had an increased awareness recently to the sacred honor of listening to voices speak. We are taught that communication includes non-verbal cues such as body movements when someone is talking. We are also taught the importance of eye contact to convey we are listening. In last week’s blog I wrote about making sure we look into someone’s eyes should their smile be a disguise. But what might we hear when the only “view” we have is the voice on the other end of a phone line?
We may not have eyes to gauge if the smile is a disguise matching the masked reply, I’m fine to the question, how are you? When we can only hear a voice and not see someone, what is our cue? If we can’t see body language or look into someone’s eyes for the “total” story, what are some things we can do on this end of the line in our listening?
Can you answer this easier if you know the person you are talking with not face-to-face? Do you think that having a relationship with someone makes it easier to be in-tune to how they say what they say? If it is a stranger, do we then rely on the meaning of the words they speak? Ah, but then how do we make sure it is their meaning of the words and not our meanings in how we are listening?
On my runs I can hear a squirrel scampering through dried leaves or a woodpecker drumming in a nearby tree. I might hear a mourning dove or a sandhill crane. Lately, I can hear all the birds joyously singing with the warmer weather change. Today I could hear the red-winged black birds and the stream as its water was flowing. All sounds I can hear without a sight to see. Sure, you may be right, like our dialogue we just exchanged about the difference between those we know and those we just meet. Because I have formed a relationship with these dear sounds of nature, I can better hear when they speak.
Yet, I am not fluent in the differences – at least, yet – in the songs birds sing. I don’t always know when they might be alerting their friends, for example, to Ginger and me. I am not always certain when it may be one calling for its mate for life, or when it is one simply singing a song in celebration of warm sunlight. The best I can do is to listen from my heart, with my heart, openly. For it always tells me when it is time to pause, listen more closely, and perhaps look up into the trees. I may then see along with the sounds, or I may only have my imagining. Ah, but then again, imagining fills our minds with the most beautiful imagery.
And shouldn’t that be how we best listen to that which we can’t see?