The following is a speech I wrote and delivered at my Toastmasters Club.
The (speech) project was Leave Them With a Smile, the second project in the Humorously Speaking manual, part of the Advanced Communication Series.
The door slammed as my husband headed back into the kitchen. He’d just asked if I’d like something to eat and I said a one-egg omelette and a slice of toast with no butter would be nice.
I was in bed nursing the worst headache I’d ever had.
I could hear him beating the egg to death in the kitchen.
Suddenly the door opened, “Just one egg?”
“Yes,” I said. “Just one egg.” And the door slammed again.
“Would you like some cheese in your omelette?”
“No thank you.” And the door slammed again.
“Would you like some butter on your toast?”
“No thank you, and please don’t . . . ” But the door slammed again.
I know his intentions where good, honourable actually, but what I received, and subsequently didn’t eat, was a two-egg omelette greasy with cheese and two slices of toasted bread absolutely slathered with butter.
When he arrived to take away the plate of uneaten food, he declared: “I don’t know why you asked for an omelette if you weren’t going to eat it.”
– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –
Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes all we need is to be heard.
As I lay on the bed, tears pulsating down my face with every – throb – of – my – aching – head, I pondered why my husband was not listening to me.
I’d been concerned about his hearing for months, however, the doctor had declared that his inner ear in all its glory was working wonderfully – and without wax.
Therefore, if his ears had the ability to perceive sound, the issue was a little deeper than that.
I then made the connection to what I believe the actual problem was.
He didn’t need to hear, he needed to listen.
As Toastmasters we learn that listening is a communication technique that requires a person to pay attention to the speaker and to provide the speaker with feedback.
I knew could ask:
“Darl, would you like to go out for dinner tonight?” and he’d reply “Yes Dear”.
“Darl, does my bum look big in this?” “Yes Dear”.
“Would you like two spoons of arsenic in your coffee?” “Yes Dear”.
But unlike my girlfriends who interpret those two words as “Oh my god woman will you please hush up; can’t you see I’m watching the football?” – I don’t.
I know in my heart that “Yes Dear” is not an act of surrender, nor is it the utterance of an unhappy, hen-pecked husband who wants nothing more than for his nagging wife to be quiet and leave him alone.
Suddenly I realised that he is simply content for me to sweat the hard stuff; that he trusts my decisions and at the end of the day it doesn’t take much to keep him happy; a big flat-screen TV, a comfortable chair and a nice little left-hand wave to surf every now and then.
On the day of the omelette though, all I wanted was for my husband to comprehend the words coming out of my mouth.
I needed his undivided attention. I needed him to take a step forward from hearing, and to listen, really listen to what I was saying. I needed him to employ active listening skills and to focus on me, not the football on the television.
– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –
As I lay there in a miasma of migraine madness, pondering his inability to do just that, I remembered there had been times when I was equally as guilty of not paying attention.
I remembered a day when I had been doing a lot of hearing and not a lot of listening.
I had just been on a 25 kilometre* round trip to buy a box of muesli bars for our youngest daughter. Sadly though her distress only deepened. Her bottom lip dropped and tears threw themselves at me as she continued to cry, “I want chewy bars mummy. I want chewy bars.”
She was 2½ years old and I was at my wit’s end.
Her begging had been going on for hours and finally, unable to take it any more, I cried, “Show – Mummy – what – it – is – you – want!”
And with that, the tears stopped and she headed into the lounge room. She picked up a CD saying “Chewy Bars Mummy, Chewy Bars!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, my heart broke. How long had I been hearing what she said without listening to what she was saying?
Had I been practising those active listening skills I so easily accused my husband of lacking on the day of the omelette, I would have known that Chewy Bars was how our youngest daughter pronounced Jimmy Barnes.
* 25 kilometres = 15.5 miles