3 Ways to Practice Listening

6 Mar

If you like being heard, you are in the right place!  You, like most people, like being heard when you are talking.  And not only that, you also like to be understood.  And that is where the art of listening comes into play.

It sounds counterintuitive to say that it takes a good listener to make a good conversation, but believe me when I say that it’s true.  (Are you listening?)

Customer Service has been my department of work for the last eight years.  I’ve talked with business men and women, moms and dads, kids, grandparents, hobbyists, enthusiasts, know-it-alls, and everyone in between.  I’ve answered hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and I’ve put forth my best effort to provide the best customer service.  And at the end of the day, you know what makes my customer service great??  Listening.

This afternoon I called a customer.  The reason for my call was a bill that was due.  The gentleman on the other end of the line answered in a friendly manner.  I told him the reason for my call.  Well, that did not go over well.  He proceeded to get mad at me for poor customer service from our collective department.  And so I listened.  He asked me insulting questions to which I gathered my breathe and answered in the kindest way I could without sounding smarmy or letting on that he was being rude.  I told him I would handle getting his account taken care of, apologized for his poor experiences and we ended our phone call on a positive note.

It wasn’t my fast typing skills or my mean mouse navigating skills that made my customer breathe a little easier when he hung up the phone.  It was that I listened to his complaint, acknowledged his frustration, apologized and fixed the problem.  Happy camper?  Yes.

The point of my sharing that story was to bring home the point of this post – 3 ways to practice listening:

  1. Become interested in the speaker.  If you are not interested in the speaker, you are not going to be interested in what they have to say.  Their words will become mumbo jumbo and you will not remember what they said.
  2. Don’t take it personally.  Was I offended that the customer insulted me for something that wasn’t my fault?  Eh, I let it roll off because I figured that he was not only upset with previous service.  He was probably using me as an easy target to air his grievances from something else that was bothering him.  Okay, fine, I’ll give him a pass.  That’s part of my job (and yours too if you are interested in becoming a good listener.)
  3. Put yourself in their shoes.  You like to be heard.  We all do.  When you talk, you want the listener to process your words.  Not just inhale your words and breathe them back out again without a second thought.  Become absorbed in what the other person is saying, and their method of driving their point home.  Do they use jokes, rhetoric, or monotone?  Do they use humor and stories?  Do they share personal experiences?  Gather the words, put them in your pocket, and don’t let them get away.  When talking person-to-person, look the other person in the eye.  It engages their heart.  People experience a sense of importance when someone else looks them in the eye when they are talking.  It shows respect.  And everyone deserves respect.

Finally, dear reader, I challenge you to this: Listen deeply to the words you hear today.  What is the person saying?  How can you listen better?  How can you empathize?  And better yet?  What are they saying that you can pray about for them?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

 

5 Quotes by Mother Teresa for you to enjoy!

17 Feb

The nun ushered our small group of student volunteers into their motherhouse in Rome, Italy, while on our semester abroad in Italy in 2007.

She took us down a hallway, where she asked us to remove our shoes before entering the next room – the Adoration Chapel.  Each of us removed our shoes before entering the Chapel.  The Chapel had an altar that housed the tabernacle (word for the house of Jesus).  There were no chairs or benches in the room.  We had simply the ground to kneel or sit on.

Above the tabernacle was a crucifix with the words “I THIRST” written on the wall next to it.  There we all knelt or sat in silent prayer.  I was humbled to be able to pray in the same chapel that Mother Teresa herself had prayed in before.

Earlier in the day our group had helped in the soup kitchen there in the heart of Rome, Italy.  There we worked with the group of sisters, Missionaries of Charity, who prepare meals every day for the homeless and hungry who live in Rome.

One of my classmates and I peeled pomegranates to serve as part of the meal.  There were so many pomegranates, and tedious to peel, but all for a good cause and humble work of mercy.  I remember being handed an apron to wear while I peeled the pomegranates.  Several of my classmates worked in the kitchen with some of the nuns preparing soup they were to serve as the main course for dinner.

It wasn’t until after the meal, after most of the people who had come for the meal had already left, that I was able to go into the eating area to see the people whom we served.  I remember helping wipe off the tables and wanting so badly to converse with someone who had come for the meal, even though we spoke different languages.  I wanted to hear their stories and be the ear that heard the story of where they came from and how they got to where they are now.  But, I didn’t have that opportunity.  Christ was calling me to service elsewhere – in the kitchen.

The whole experience stands out so much in my mind.  The sisters who belong to the order of Missionaries of Charity were so humble, so charitable, and so patient.  They were amazing witnesses of Christ’s teachings!

Lastly, here are five quotes from Mother Teresa that have inspired me on many occasions.  I hope you enjoy these little words of wisdom as much as I do:

1) “Do small things with great love.”

2) “Be faithful in small things, for it is in them that your strength lies.”

3) “God doesn’t ask us to be successful.  He asks us to be faithful.”

4) “When the time comes to ask God for something, ask Him to help you be generous.”

5) “If you wish to change the world, go home and love your family.”

Mother Teresa, pray for us!

“She Laughs without fear of the future” Proverbs 31:25

11 Jan

These words hit me like a slap in the face.  As I sat on my bed, overwhelmed with wedding planning, these words jumped off the wall at me.  The verse “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” is printed on wall art that hangs above the desk in my bedroom.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the worry and fear of what could happen, what might not work out and what could go wrong with wedding plans, marriage preparations, and marriage itself.  It’s so easy to get lost in the stress and caught up in the fears of something going wrong.

BUT.

The Holy Spirit stopped me quick in my tracksHe asked me to trust in GodTrust God radically and like none other.  Because when we put all of our trust in God, and trust in HIS POWER and HIS PLANS, and when we do our part to carry out God’s work in our lives, when we are STILL. AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD (and that we are imperfect and yet perfectly imperfect wonderful human beings), God is glorified.  If we allow the fear and worry to grip our minds, and when we allow the fear to creep in and take ahold of our otherwise peaceful lives, the glory is taken from God.  God does not want that.

God asks us to Trust Him for His plans are greater than ours, and when we sense that peace leaving our hearts, we must remind ourselves that God is in control.  We don’t have to be the conductor for the orchestra that directs every instrument.  We have to be that one single instrument that plays that one part, and the conductor, God, will take care of the rest.

I worry about not having enough time for planning and organizing everything for our wedding.  I worry about not having a house yet.  The fear of the future causes my head to spin “what if this happens?” “what if that happens?”  About every imaginable fear and worry runs through my head.

But for what?

What it boils down to is a lack of trust in God’s plans for my future (Jeremiah 29:11.)

My fiancé B. and I have taken classes regarding fertility and cycles, and we’ve read about St. John Paul’s II’s Theology of the Body, and we have been living as single people.  We have read books on good marriages and gotten advice from fantastic couples, and have prayed so many prayers for our future marriage.  And still I have this fear of the future.  I have been charting and watching my cycles and trying to remember to take my vitamins, exercise when I can, etc.  I dream of having children and being a wife and mother.  Oftentimes when I think of being able to be a mother someday, it makes me cry just thinking about it – in a good way – because I want it so badly.  I pray that we can have children – children who are healthy, happy and holy.  I need to trust God.

B. and I, like every other couple on the planet, are not perfect.  We mis-communicate, misunderstand each other, and assume instead of talk through things.  I am afraid of the “honeymoon phase” wearing off and “getting used to” each other.  We don’t want to ever take each other for granted.  But we do forget to say and do those things that show each other how much we love and cherish each other.  Does that mean we are failures?  No.  It means that we are human.  And thankfully, we can step back, look at the situation after the fact, and laugh at ourselves. 

“We are clothed with strength and dignity, and we laugh without fear of the future.”

Join us!

Marriage Preparations – Part 1

7 Jan

As I sit here on the couch, there is a Labradoodle-Irish setter (Teddi) resting on the floor to my right.  There is a Yorkie/westie (Molly) sitting to my left.  Both of the dogs are staying at my house for doggy-sitting (Teddi will be here the whole month, while Molly will be staying here until tomorrow.)  My kitchen is *mostly* clean.  There is a fresh pile of laundry sitting on my bed waiting to be put away.  The furnace is quietly rumbling while outside it’s about 20 degrees.  What a welcome presence this peaceful time is.  This is a welcome break from hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

It’s 133 Days until our wedding!!!  Engagement – how do I describe it?  It’s brings with it so many emotions.  It’s a beautiful, busy, stressful, lovely and hopeful time.  My wonderful fiancé B. and I have been planning our wedding (soo many details!)  We have been house-hunting, praying together, growing together as a couple, and learning how to soak it all in in the meantime.  It’s wonderful.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a lot of hard work.  (And yes, I’ve shed tears.)  Our engagement has been a good opportunity to work on character building (which is a nice way to say we are far from being a perfect couple, which I know being a perfect couple isn’t realistic, which is a post for another day…I digress.)

Engagement is a good time to cleanse ourselves of rust that’s accumulated in our hearts and minds and to cultivate the Spirit of God who has brought us together and who wishes us to grow together in love, joy and wisdom.

As of late, I’ve been working on patience.  Marriage planning is pretty much guaranteed to test any couple’s virtues.  For example, I thought I was pretty patient, but you know, not so much.  Case in point: B. and I have been house-hunting.  As we look at houses both online and in person, I tend to get my hopes up for each house.  “We could paint this room, put new carpet here, add a porch there” etc.  But each house is either out of our budget, too far from town, doesn’t have the open floor plan that we both like, needs an overhaul, or just doesn’t quite fit the bill overall.  I had these grandiose plans in my head that after we got engaged, we would find our first house, fix it up and have it ready to move into by the time we’re married.  *Reality check*  Realistically we may not have a house by then and probably won’t have one that’s ready to move into.  Being patient through the house-hunting process has been very challenging for me.  I can’t wait to have a house to call “ours” and to have a place of our own to decorate and to call “home.”  I’m learning to let it go and pray “Thy will, not mine” and to TRUST in God’s timing. 

B. and I are asking our family and friends to pray for us as we prepare for marriage, that we grow in virtue, and that all the house-hunting, scheduling and coordinating goes smoothly and stress-free.  Will you join us in prayer?  Thank you!  We appreciate all the prayers!

 

 

 

 

Running to Bethlehem

12 Dec

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The clock read “4:40pm.”  I was at work, working off-the-clock, closing out a full and busy day at work.  After closing down my laptop, I packed it securely into my backpack, slid into my coat, and hurried outside into the chilly air.  After gathering my workout closes from my car, I went back inside to the workout room where I walked, ran and stretched.  That felt really good!

This Advent I’ve been running a lot and in many ways.  From the moment my alarm clock goes off – to the moment my head hits the pillow at the end of the day, my mind is running in a thousand directions.  The reason?  Work and WEDDING PLANNING!!!!   It’s so amazing, crazy and awesome to think that at this time next year, I will be married to my dearest love, the man of my dreams.  With all that goes into planning a wedding, it’s no wonder that some people go into careers as wedding planners – it’s a lot of work!  But a lot of glorious work.  My world as of the past couple months has been full of meetings with the church wedding coordinator, the priest at the church, potential wedding photographers, dress shops, etc.  What colors to have, shoes to wear, flowers to carry, cake to eat, and guests to invite, not to mention house-hunting – what a wonderful time of life.  And yes, I’m also back into working out and running!

Oftentimes as I think of all the details that need planned for our wedding day, I reflect on God watching me go through my day, watching over me with his Fatherly care, and I remind myself not to get too busy to pray and to grow in holiness.  I think of Mother Mary and her betrothal to Joseph.  How her mind and feet must have been running everywhere, but how she kept peace in her heart and love in her speech.  When Mary said “yes” to God’s will for her to be the Mother of Our Savior, she never once complained about how worried she was to travel to Bethlehem for the census.  She didn’t complain about riding on the back of a donkey, and didn’t complain about sleeping on a bed of hay when her husband Joseph found no room in the inn.  Mary was kind and loving in all ways.

This Advent in the midst of all the running and planning, I need to make sure I run to Bethlehem.  I need to learn from the Holy Family who exemplified every good and beautiful virtue.  I’m planning a beautiful wedding and often remind myself that our wedding day is not just all about us – it’s about our lives that we are committing to each other for GOD’S greater honor and glory.  I need to make sure that my spiritual life is growing this season and that I share the fruit of my faith with those around me.

 

The Holy Family lived in a busy time, but they never got too busy to pray and they were never too busy to grow in their spiritual lives.  Let’s run to Bethlehem and learn from the Holy Family there!

 

 

(photo op this summer at my oldest brother’s house – this is me with all my siblings (except one who hadn’t arrived to the cookout yet) plus extended family.  (I’m in the center holding the Frisbee.  B. had to work that weekend, so he wasn’t able to make the trip.)

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           One of my favorite engagement photos of B. and I

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