“We learn most when we listen to others” is a line from my favorite TV show, Call the Midwife.  It’s a PBS program that airs on Sunday night about a group of nuns and midwives serving a poor section of London during the 1950s and 60s.

I don’t watch much television, but this program has me hooked. The acting is terrific and the storyline is a wonderful look at the joys and challenges of relationships in all their many facets. 

The scripting at the beginning and end of each episode are beautifully written and inspiring words, reminding us what we’re all capable of as people in relationship with each other. I even love the background music that sets the mood as the show begins and ends.

The particular line I mentioned, We learn most when we listen to others, is from Season 10, episode 4. It came from the head nun, Sister Julienne, speaking to a new midwife who just started at their facility and who prefers to talk rather than listen. It’s why this newbie isn’t learning what Sister Julienne is trying to teach her.

The show is on hiatus now until later this year or early 2024, but you can watch the first 12 seasons on Netflix or PBS Passport. Invite me over and we’ll binge-watch a season or two together. I’ll bring the popcorn. Wednesday nights work best for me.

 Why do we talk so much?

Sister Julienne's comment raises the question of why some people talk so much. Here are a few of my random thoughts on the matter:

  • We come out of the womb as talkers, not listeners.
  • Kudos go to talkers, not listeners. We have TED Talks, but no TED Listens
  • Except for our teachers in early elementary school, we weren’t taught to listen to others.
  • We naturally gravitate to talking, rather than listening. It’s why we have Janes 1: 19 in the Bible, “Be quick to  listen and slow to speak.”  We’re naturally bent to be quick to speak and slow to listen. It’s part of the Fall.
  • We’re also uncomfortable with silence. We fill the airwaves with words to ease our discomfort.
There’s a better way

We don’t learn much of anything if we’re talking. Sister Julienne could testify to that with her rookie midwife she was trying to train.

The good news is that listening is a skill that can be learned.  But like any skill, it needs to be practiced over and over again to get good at it.

The most important thing to learn

We use Google and YouTube to learn about all kinds of factual things. How to fix a leaky faucet, the maximum amount of Tylenol to take in a day, and who won the 1949 Kentucky Derby.

But the most important thing to learn is people. What makes them tick? What do they need?  What do they want from me and from life?  How can I help them?

We learn about other people by listening to them, not by reviewing the results of their Myers-Briggs personality test or their Enneagram number.

I know many would disagree, but tools like these don’t help us learn about people. We learn most about people when we listen to others.

And we learn more when we listen, not just with our ears, but also with our eyes. It’s part of the O in the ORA principle of deepening relationships.  Observe, as in Observe – Reflect – Act. We’ve talked about this before in a number of podcast episodes. I’ll have a link to one at the end.

So what About You?

What are you learning these days?  From books?  From the media?  From listening to others?

Our lives are far more enriched when we spend time listening to people, rather than talking. When we learn how others are living life by listening to them we are often rewarded with ideas for how we can do the same.

We’ll be spending more time in season 8 of our You Were Made for This podcast learning how to do this.

Other Relationship Resources

Last week’s blog post, “What We Wish For”

Episode 088 of You Were Made for This, Get Them to Say “Thank You for Asking.” This is an introduction to the ORA principle (Observe – Reflect – Act)

Episode 113 of You Were Made for This,  “Our Choices Define Us, Not Our Personality”

THEM -The Richer Life Found in Caring for Others

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