by Jean Loxley-Barnard

This is the time of year when I think of reconnecting with people I care about but have not been in contact with for some time. I called a few last month and was very pleased that I did. I've also heard from some who decided to call me.

Both calling and being called made me think about what really happens with these reconnections. They can be either positive or negative experiences.

What I hope will happen when I call someone out of the blue is for them to know that they are still important to me, even if a long time has elapsed since we spoke. While the call itself indicates that, there is more required. I need to find out what is going on in their lives and to be careful that I don't just borrow their ears. If they wanted to find out about me, they would have called me. I want to remember that I called them.

Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their own lives. There is a price to be paid for that kind of privilege. It is listening.

When we listen to what another person has to say, it is a gift. No one has time to throw away. When someone listens to me, I know I'm the recipient of a gift: gift of time, at the very least, and - even better - a gift of friendship.

I frequently wonder if I take up more than my share of time in conversations with those I love. It is so easy to do, and it's so important to be conscious of that reality in order to avoid it. Conversations need to be a two-way street, with time-sharing and interest in what each has to say.

When I call friends and ask how they are, I hope it is always with interest, wanting to know what is really going on in their lives, their hearts, their minds. I don't want to be the person who drones on and on and just doesn't know when to stop talking. Is what I am telling them of any interest to them? That should be my first thought when I begin to tell them about me instead of asking questions about them and wanting to hear the answers!

I've had times when I've been in great distress and I've had the good fortune of people caring enough about me to listen. There have been other times when I've listened to friends in distress and have been happy to be there for them. Under ordinary circumstances, however, I want to measure the success of any connecting by the flow of conversation back and forth.

I know some potentially interesting people whom I just don't want to call - or have call me - simply because they monopolize every conversation, not even giving me time to comment on what they are saying! When people don't call, or don't call back, maybe we need to try listening. Good listeners have lots of friends. They even get to talk part of the time. They are the people who call us and start the conversation by saying, 'Tell me everything and don't leave anything out!' Has anyone said that to us lately? Let's think about that.

The happiest holidays happen when the greatest gifts given and received are time and genuine interest, evidenced by lively conversation on both ends. Let's reconnect, talk, and listen.

Happy Thanksgiving

Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.