What I know about remodeling will leave you speechless.
Yes, true: what I know about remodeling a basement will leave you speechless — mostly because you’ll be bent over with laughter at my ignorance. The last time I attempted to disconnect an abandoned sink, I sprayed myself in the face with such force my glasses flew across the room and hit the real contractor.
What I know about relationships, though also modest, may leave you speechless, too, if you listen to why I argue each of us could use our mouths a little less and our ears a whole bunch more.
I do admire all the stories posted as links near the end of the articles I read online. Who knew what someone knew about WWII would leave me speechless? Or that what another writer understands about financial markets would leave me speechless? Pictures of cute cats? Speechless!
Apparently, the world is full of knowledge about razors, dresses, Macaulay Caulkin, people who discover planes in the jungle, and bed sheets that will drop my jaw, compress my lungs, take all the oxygen out of the room, dry out my tongue, and leave me utterly unable to utter any words.
In a word, speechless.
You really want to leave someone speechless? Try closing your own mouth.
Many of us have allowed the fine art of listening to atrophy over the years as we’ve become much more expert (on pretty much anything), far more experienced (with just about everything), and considerably more self-centered.
In Fight Club, Marla Singer replies to the Narrator’s attempt to give her a speech:
Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just …
Marla Singer: … instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?
We are quiet and we pay attention when we think what the other person is saying has merit or value, when we care enough to allow them to speak for a moment or two, when we are, ultimately, able to put aside our thoughts and make room for somebody else’s.
Listening to somebody else provides the opportunity for sympathy; but you can’t listen if your lips are flapping—talking over somebody else, cutting them off midsentence, asserting yourself and your idea and saying “I am not speechless!”
Listening to your lover say, “you are more important right now than anything I might need to say,” and the gesture of kindness is an aphrodisiac.
Listening to your partner with eyes open and tongue immobile says, “I hear you. You are present to me, and your words allow me to connect with you.”
Your turn to talk will come, and someone who is wise will hold still and listen to you, will hear you because they are not talking and are instead considering what you have to say.
You will still be as smart, as snappy, as trusted as when you burst into words in the middle of someone else’s sentence; others will continue to see your wisdom and grit, your expertise.
But if you leave yourself breathless, they will also see your patience and love.
Most importantly, they will know what they have to say has meaning, and, consequently, start to believe what you have to say is also significant.
If you want to be heard, practice holding still and listening. Make a move toward speechlessness.
Maybe your contractor, if you listen to her, will give you a discount and some free advice.