A Lesson in Listening…

It was early December 2003. At that time I had separated, was couch-surfing at a mate’s place and was looking for accommodation. I had inspected a small place in South Brisbane earlier that week, applied and then was accepted, and now was on my way to sign the lease.

I chose the wrong platform. Then the wrong train. I then found the right train. I raced down the escalators to catch it. I reached the platform, saw the train and promptly dropped my wallet scattering coins. I looked across at the train, I looked down at the change and chose the train. By then I assumed I would be late. I phoned the real estate office to warn them. And as well it was raining.

Then I turned up on time! And the rain stopped. I easily found the real estate office. But the entrance wasn’t easily accessible. I circled around the back and found a gate. Looking over the gate, I saw it opened into an indoor-outdoor area. To the left of the gate there was a window/counter and the back office door. I let myself in and announced myself. I was asked to wait and did.

After about 10 minutes or so, there was a knock on the gate. I opened it. Standing before me was a young woman. My guess was that she was tallish  (5 feet 9 inches or 175 cm). She had blondish brown very wispy hair, quite the thinnest face and blue eyes. She reminded me somewhat of the actress Kate Hudson. But I didn’t say anything. She was wearing a white or off-white blouse and beige trousers. She had no earrings, no rings, just a watch and had a red Indy 500 strap around her neck. She wore little make-up and didn’t need even that.

We introduced ourselves. I said to her it seemed that you have missed the rain. I then leant through the window and mentioned that she had arrived. I asked her where she worked. She replied that she worked at one of the local radio stations. I immediately thought she might be one of the announcers. But I didn’t say that either.

We both sat down and waited for our appointments. My dynamic Scottish property manager appeared, filled out and processed the paperwork rapidly and then disappeared. In the meantime, my acquaintance’s New Zealand property manager appeared, processed the paperwork whilst having an animated conversation. I listened while I waited. In that time, I worked out that perhaps the other property manager was from Nelson in the South Island.

Finally I was called to the counter for my deposit. I paid my deposit and again had to wait. I started to get worried about time. I began to think of leaving when the New Zealand property manager asked me, “Did you get your receipt?” I replied that I hadn’t.

As I was waiting, my acquaintance attempted to put in her deposit. She searched through her purse for the extra money and came up short. She asked me if she could borrow 60 cents as she had given a tip.  It turned out she was 10 cents short. I gave her the remainder. That was all I had left in my wallet after the spillage. We laughed at that.

I was then asked where I was going. I replied back to work in Brisbane. I said I was taking the train back. Despite that she offered me a lift. I accepted. It would be quicker by car.

When she received her receipt, we left. She opened the door to her car for me. I got in.

And then began a remarkable conversation. It started in the usual way. She told me she was an account manager. She mentioned also that she had previously been in an advertising agency.  She asked me what I did for a living. I said that I was in Information Technology support and added that I preferred the people side of it.

Then something odd thing happened. I made a comment. It was something like “God willing” or “In faith.” Quick as a flash, she  asked me if I was religious. I replied, a little bit reluctantly, “Yes I believe.” I then added that I don’t force my beliefs on anyone. I concluded that people should find out for themselves. She happily left it at that.

We moved on to the next subject and the next. In a short drive from Clayfield to Brisbane, we covered quite a few subjects. I still wonder how so much was said in so little time.

In the end I was dropped off at work. We wished each other well and really that was that.

But I was puzzled. How did we cover so much in so little time? I turned the conversation over in my mind. After a while I remembered what she did when I spoke. As a good listener, she focussed on what I said. But as Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” That’s why she was a brilliant listener : she focussed and asked me what I didn’t say.

Yes that day I learnt a lesson in listening…

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