Listen with your heart

listen with your heartI need your advice. One of the things I’ve learned since starting this blog is it’s just as much important to understand what doesn’t make you happy, as what does make you happy. I also know that sometimes you just have to Let it go, and channel your energies into something positive instead of focusing on the negative.

Last week we spent the evening with a group of people we see often and are close to us. It was a nice night but it occurred to me at the end of the night, they didn’t ask a single question about my work, what we’ve been up to lately, or a big trip I’m taking in a couple of weeks. It really hit home when we got up to leave and not a single person said “Have a great trip” even though they knew they wouldn’t see me before I left.

I’ll admit I was a bit hurt. This same group of people have stated on many occasions (including that night) that they are way too busy to read my blog and have never read it.

For those of you who do read this blog, you’ll know I often post about my family. I know there’s lots of people out there who won’t like what I post and who don’t get this blog and I’m okay with that. But I would have thought people close to us might check in from time to time if for no other reason than to see what my family is up to. To blatantly dismiss it and show no interest is bizarre to me and frankly a little hurtful. Since they’ve told me many times they don’t read it, I don’t have to worry about them seeing this post.

Dave and I had an interesting conversation afterwards about the art of conversation. I observed that it seems people don’t truly listen anymore or take an interest in what others are doing. He agreed and told me that to this day, a close co-worker has still not said “sorry for your loss” or acknowledged in any way the death of his mother this February.

There’s a funny little column in the Toronto Star called The Dating Diaries. Each week, someone goes on a date with a person they met online, then describes the date and rates it out of 10. I’ve noticed a theme in these columns. Often the person writing the column rates the date low and says that the other person talked about themselves the entire time. No second date.

Dave blames social media for the narcissistic society that we have become. We post what we’re doing every minute of the day on Facebook and bloggers like me take to the net in a never-ending stream of self-gratification. We are living in selfie age. I agree, but I also think social media is a great way to keep in touch with those you might not be able to see, support people, and engage and share in conversations.

So, dear readers, now it’s your chance to weigh in on the debate and give me your advice. Am I unrealistic to expect people to take an interest in my life? Have we stopped listening with our hearts? And do you think social media is to blame or are we just so busy in our lives we’ve stopped listening with our hearts and caring about what is going on in other people’s lives?

This week’s #HappyAct is to leave a comment to help me understand and to actively reverse this trend by listening with your heart. Make a conscious effort to stop what you are doing, shut your mind to distractions and completely focus on your conversations with people and ask about what’s happening in their lives.

Talk to strangers

Cartoon that says don't talk to strangers, don't talk to anyoneIf you read last week’s blog, you’ll know I was planting trees this past weekend. Hope you got your hands dirty too. One of the gentleman who was volunteering at Lemoine’s Point knee-deep in mud yesterday told me that his great great grandfather was a brick layer who came over from England. He had designed and built the portico in our Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

We also got into an interesting conversation about physical education in our school’s system, and how children need daily exercise in order to focus and do well in school. He cited studies that showed students did dramatically better on math tests when they engaged in 60 minutes of exercise immediately before testing.

We go to school, take courses, attend workshops and conferences to learn, and yet one of the most easiest and free ways to learn is simply by talking to people.

Especially strangers. When you talk to a stranger, you are more likely to learn something new and see things from a whole new perspective.

Travelling is wonderful for this. When I travel, I always talk to the person sitting next to me. On recent flights, I’ve met a girl who worked for Mastercard who was a personal consultant to high net worth clients (she advised people with millions of dollars on how to get the most of their card purchases). One time I sat next to a songwriter from Nashville who was on his way to Chicago for a high school reunion. He had written songs for stars like Willy Nelson.

When I was in New Orleans this March, I had lunch at a diner style place (these places are great for single travelers who don’t want to eat alone) and met the priest from St. Louis Cathedral who told us what it was like to live in the middle of “bedlam” as he referred to living on the edge of Bourbon Street. My cab driver who drove me to the airport told me he had just signed up for Obamacare which led to an interesting discussion on health care in the United States. Even when I’m travelling to Toronto or Montreal on business on the train, I try to shut my laptop down for 20 minutes and talk to the person sitting next to me.

We can learn so much if we reach out and talk to people. This week’s Happy Act is to talk to a stranger. Strike up a conversation, ask about what they do, their family. I’d love to hear what you learned, so leave a comment and share your experience.

A special note to parents this week: One of my biggest pet peeves as a parent is when I hear another parent say to their kids “Don’t talk to strangers”. I remember years ago going out for Dave’s mother’s birthday for a family celebration to a restaurant in Burlington. Next to us, another family was celebrating a birthday. Dave’s Mom, who was around 65 at the time leaned across and said a few words to the young girl, and her mother hissed at her to not talk to strangers. Dave’s Mom was crushed.

Do we really want to teach our children not to talk to other people? I get the safety thing, but there is a HUGE difference in engaging in polite, idle conversation with people, and getting in a car and going somewhere with them. We’ve taught our children the difference, and things like code words to keep them safe. But telling them not to engage with others and learn from others is so terribly sad. If you have young children, I beg of you, please banish this phrase from your vocabulary.