Getting an earful

Getting an earful

I am not in the right frame of mind just then to listen to any advice, solicited or otherwise.

“Can’t you just listen?” I am on the phone with my friend when I am tempted to blurt out these words. When I first hear my friend’s voice, I am ecstatic. It has been a while since we last spoke. I was at a low ebb when her call came out of the blue. The good thing about friendships is that distance and time don’t make a difference. Good friends simply pick up from where they left off.

Right after she greets me, I find myself ranting and raving over my latest bugbear. When I pause for a few seconds to gather second wind, my friend remarks, “But you know something – there could be another way to look at this...” She goes on to play devil’s advocate, not realising my growing frustration.

No, I am not looking for a solution. In hindsight, I realise my friend is trying to help me in her own way. But I am not in the right frame of mind just then to listen to any advice, solicited or otherwise. With great restraint, I hold myself back from slamming the phone down on her. When my doorbell rings, it gives me the perfect excuse to wrap up the phone call.

Later that evening, when my husband walks in the door, he gets an earful. “All I wanted was a listening board!” I lament. “That’s what I’m here for, tell me” he replies. Couples who’ve been married for a long time usually know how to respond when the other partner is out of sorts.

If my husband were to listen to me all the time, without speaking his mind, I would become suspicious. As those who know my husband would tell you, there’s little chance of that happening.

How hard is it for us to simply listen and not respond? The ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium once said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we speak.”

Of course, as children we were the beneficiaries of advice at every stage of our lives, from our parents. I could easily relate to writer Erma Bombeck’s quote, “When your mother asks – do you want a piece of advice? It’s a mere formality.”

Growing up in India meant practically every adult around us felt free to advise us. Marriage only adds more people to our list of advisors. The truly lucky amongst us have the enviable fortune of also listening to advice from our children. I’ve finally understood what Gandhi meant when he said “Be the change you seek.”

So from now on I promise to just listen and not provide advice, answers or solutions, even if solicited.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)