The value of listening and sharing

I love sharing little anecdotes from my life – as anyone who reads this column regularly knows. In fact, I just love talking in general, and, like many champion talkers, we tend to talk either about ourselves or others. Usually, I find it easier to stick to myself or my experiences, not (just) to show off but to avoid gossiping about others, which is very, very tempting, especially if I begin with my husband – but I digress!

A priest reminded us in his homily recently that “When you show your story, people hear theirs”, which resonated very strongly with me. Sometimes we are worried about others knowing our stories, of exposing our weaknesses and possibly making judgements about us. But in reality, sharing our journey can be very affirming for others walking the same path.

Empathy with others means connecting in some way. By sharing a common story, we can create a bond that nothing else can. Whether it be a parenting issue, a sporting triumph or tragedy, financial woes, domestic disharmony – all of these are issues commonly faced by our friends and colleagues, too. Sharing these with others in a similar situation can help both parties cope.

And there are different kinds of sharing. I guess, to use Randy Pausch’s analogy, we need to decide whether we are an Eeyore or a Tigger. Tigger, despite his problems, continued to bounce about and kept a positive attitude, whereas Eeyore was overtaken my melancholy and was, quite frankly, a whinger. Let’s remember that whingers are a great Australian tradition – like brown snakes. We can’t kill ’em but no one likes ’em either!

Anyone who saw the YouTube clip of Randy Pausch on Oprah would appreciate the value of his having shared his story. But, despite having such a limited time to live, he was so positive! Nick Vujicic is another who blows me away when he shares his story with us – yet he, too, is able to extract the good from everything.

So I hope people will forgive me if I continue to share. Incidentally, I do actually like hearing others share their stories, too. Apart from the fact that I don’t get into trouble for talking too much (from my husband), if I’m listening, I am hearing far more than that. I am hearing that we’re all human. That sometimes we make mistakes, that sometimes unexpected things happen and we cope as best as we can, but that whatever our story is, we are always being listened to by our God, too.