There are many inspirations for David’s and my posts, but the most common source of my inspirations is music. I love music, more than I love psychology, and the interrelationship of music and psychology is fascinating to me. One of my favorite musicians is Jimmy Buffett, who wrote a song called, “School Boy Heart.” There is a line in the song, “I got a bartender ear,” which reminded me of the listening skills that are necessary within my field of psychology. From an early age, I have always been someone whose friends and family call upon when they need someone to “lend an ear” regarding their problems. My mother used to get frustrated about the amount of time I spent counseling my friends on the telephone. (In those days, we had only one phone in our home, meaning that the time I spent listening to my friends’ latest dilemma resulted in a busy signal for other callers.) Psychologists, bartenders, and hairstylists have in common a skill for listening to other people’s problems. But, in contrast to bartenders and hairstylists, we psychologists are educated and trained on the proper means of providing assistance to those in need. One of the primary means of providing help is listening to what others are saying. Many times, people hear without listening, which is strikingly similar to not being able to see the forest for the trees. Next time someone is sharing his/her thoughts and feelings with you, listen with a bartender’s ear instead of jumping in to provide your opinion on the subject. Imagine yourself as a bartender, hairstylist, or psychologist who is truly more interested in hearing what other people are trying to tell you than almost anything else that is happening. Can you hear me?
It is fascinating to observe Melissa being approached by friends, and, with some regularity, strangers, with their problems. Sometimes, significant problems. She has told me that it was, in part, because of this frequent occurrence that she studied psychology. But, beyond that bartender ear, listening is a very important skill for business and life – one that seems, at times, underappreciated. I think politicians need to do more of it, for example. During the pandemic, various relief programs have been designed, seemingly, without input from the small businesses which need it. That is a large scale example of the need to listen. In our world as trial consultants, is it critical for us to listen to our lawyer clients, and perhaps, more importantly, to their clients – our “end clients.” Many times, the lawyers have done all the talking without listening to the concerns of their client. It may be a matter of explaining processes which are extremely familiar to the end client, or it may be that they have a question, concern, or objective that is not well considered or understood by the lawyer(s). Listening skills can be improved with study and practice and it is better to listen than to engage in the, seemingly, much more common yelling at “the other side.” Sometimes, the listening is “between the lines” – of the spoken and written words. Several times, I have detected signs of stress among my Facebook friends and reached out to check on them. In doing so, I’ve typically been right and, while others may have made sympathetic comments in response to that person, those are typically superficial. Sometimes, listening involves only listening, but othertimes, it involves responding, acting, and being proactive to help others in the world get through the vicissitudes of life.