We all live in very different worlds at the same moment we are sharing the same world. We can share patriotism and appreciation for a beautiful day but we each focus on something much more specific in our lives.
Each of us has at least one thing in life that makes us come alive. Most of us have several.
Pets, who give unconditional love, are one of the main interests in their owners' lives. Hobbies and sports, such as fishing or racing or baseball or devotion to a particular athlete, light up lives.
Grandchildren can turn a tycoon into a teddy bear with a mere mention. We all have something we just love to discuss. Maybe it is saving the whales or astrology or gardening - the possible subjects of someone's passion are endless, but easily unearthed by a tuned-in ear.
I find it fascinating to discover what the main interest is in someone else's life and I am astounded at how often people are unaware of what that is in others or are oblivious as to how important it is to acknowledge. Whether or not we really know someone hinges on our knowing what he or she is passionate about, even lives to do.
It does not take long to find out what someone else is all about if we are willing to ask questions and then listen to the reply. It sounds simple and it is. The only catch is that we have to stop talking about ourselves long enough to focus on someone else.
Who comes to mind when we think about someone talking endlessly about himself or herself? A few people leap into my consciousness. The next question needs to be, Am I one of these? Let's assume we are all self-absorbed. We are to one degree or another. What can we do to guard against it?
In any conversation, we can consciously focus on the other person for at least part of the time we spend together. We can ask ourselves how much time the other person spent talking during our conversation, and not just saying, 'Uh-huh.'
When was the last time we kept our mouths shut for five minutes while we listened? Dare we ask our friends and families to estimate the total time we focus on our own passions during most conversations?
Most of our encounters with others are superficial, that's why the weather is often the topic of casual conversations. It need not stop there. While others are unlikely to bear their souls at a Chamber of Commerce function or at the church picnic, they can be drawn out to the point where we get a quick look at who they really are in everyday life. We can go beyond asking someone what they do for a living to what motivated them to enter that career or what they find most challenging about it.
What do we really know about the people in our lives? If we haven't talked to them recently and watched them light up with enthusiasm, we haven't been paying attention. Who knows a lot about us? Who doesn't seem to give a hoot?
When we want to get to know other people, all we have to do is ask them about themselves, then listen to the replies and show interest. It's called friendship. The rewards are astonishing.
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 38 years.
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