Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Job of Listening

One of the best parts of working for the newspaper is the fact that I get to be really, really nosy. I get to ask questions of people that would usually have me considered, to use a colloquialism, a "neb-nose." But it's all in the name of getting a good story, right? And most people enjoy talking.

Yet, with this fun, comes the added responsibility of how I handle this personal stuff, what I choose to include. I usually ask far more questions and get far more information that I can actually use. But by getting more than I need, I get to know my subject much better and can (hopefully) write a better story as a result.

I realized this morning, as I plowed through the 24 (!!) "mini" -- 200- to 450-word -- stories I'm doing for a "Shop Local" supplement our newspaper is producing in conjunction with the advertising department, that I've been a reporter, of sorts, all of my life.

I have always enjoyed sitting down and hearing the stories of people's pasts. I find myself transported back to another time and another place. Like a foreign country, everything feels strange and new and exciting. And I'm a very curious person.

Even as a little girl of 4 or 5, I would go next door to our older neighbor's house to have "tea" with her. I would listen to her stories. My mom said I was a "little old lady" way before my time.  But hearing people's stories gave me a kind of wisdom far beyond my years. It wasn't that I was wise...I became wise through the experiences of others.

But, lest you think I'm a great listener with the patience of a saint and the wisdom of Solomon, I'm not.

I enjoy listening, but I also want to "fix" things. If my "wisdom" gets ahead of me, I have a chronic urge to "pep talk" people -- even those who don't want help, who just need an ear.

I guess that's because it's a different kind of listening. One is to recount a story...the other to share a need.

My "wisdom" still needs tweaking.

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