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One of my favorite CDs is entitled Let My Words Be Few by Phillips, Craig, and Dean (Sparrow Records, 2001). Those of you who know me well are probably laughing that I would embrace a CD by that title (I do love to talk[horizontal ellipsis]). But those words have challenged me in many areas of my life over the past few years.
As a mother, I certainly want to tell my daughters how to avoid life's pitfalls. They laugh and tell me I talk too much. As a nurse, I want to "fix" things for my patients. They often just want someone to really hear what their challenges are in trying to maintain their health in a very stressful world. As a college professor, I certainly have great wisdom to impart (smile). My students just want to know I care about them. Let your words be few[horizontal ellipsis] the words ring true.
How much more effective would we be in all areas of our life if we learned to listen? My teenage daughters will go so far as to remind me they don't want me to say anything (yes, they really tell me that); "Just listen, Mom." Oh that is so hard! I am slowly learning in my prayer life the most empowering times with God are when I listen to Him instead of spouting off my list of needs and wants! And I can recall several patient care encounters when I had nothing to offer in the way of definitive treatment or relief from illness or pain. I felt helpless and ineffective. Yet because I simply gave those patients my focused attention while they were in my care, they thanked me over and over again for "taking such good care" of them. It was hard to comprehend. My words of advice or counsel were absent, but my silence must have rung true for them. They felt I had heard their heart even when there was nothing I could offer from a nursing perspective in terms of effective problem management.
I am certainly impressed by those who have the gift of listening. I have learned from my experiences as an ex-officio member of the SGNA Board of Directors how important it is to listen to those we serve. Typically, not a meeting goes by that one director or another reminds other members of the board: "We need to listen to our members;" or "We need to ask our members what they think." That attitude is certainly one of the reasons our organization has accomplished so much despite the challenges of limited resources.
Our headquarters staff are another reason. They are intimately involved with SGNA: attending board and committee meetings; talking with members via the phone, e-mail, and at our annual course; directing the day-to-day business of our organization. And what do you think I've seen as one of their most effective managements strategies-they sit back and listen before they initiate any activities. They are some of the most gifted and creative women and men in organizational management, yet they stop and listen to capitalize on their effectiveness in helping to move our organization forward.
"Let my words be few." Those five words are packed with wisdom and guidance for all of us. As you go through your day, try to implement that advice in every aspect of your life: home, work, church, school. Practice listening. If your experience is anything like mine, you'll recognize there is a lot of life you've been missing because you simply haven't listened. So again: let your words be few.
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