The excited voice on the phone informed me that I had been selected for something truly amazing - the caller's company was giving me the opportunity to have their satellite TV service installed absolutely free, PLUS I could take advantage of their reduced subscription rates for my first three months of service. Wow!
"Thank you, but I'm not interested...."
"This really is an incredible offer," he enthused, despite my attempt to terminate the conversation. "What kind of service are you currently using with your television - cable or satellite?"
"Ummm, neither. We don't watch TV." My thumb felt for the "end" button on the handset.
"Yes, but when you do watch TV, are you using cable or satellite?" The fellow apparently didn't understand my last statement.
"We don't watch TV," I repeated. Then, in an attempt to defend my family's peculiarity, I blurted, "We read books."
A long pause - I wondered if the energetic salesman had dismissed me as some kind of crank and hung up. "Oh." Nope, he was still on the line. Another long silence. "Well, when you watch TV, are you more interested in news programs or in entertainment? Do you enjoy programs specific to a special interest, such as gardening or history or home decorating?"
This time I was the one slow to respond. This guy's clueless persistance baffled me. Fascinated, I finally answered, "Ummm, I'm reading a book about Sarah Edwards right now - you know, the wife of Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher?" Silence. "One of my kids is reading a really fat fantasy book by Susanna Clark named Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which he says is awesome. I think my husband is reading a book required for the leadership-training class at church, but I don't know the name of it." Silence. Something perverse in my nature prodded me on. "What book are you currently reading?"
After another substantial pause, the man found his voice. "Ummm, okay, well then.....thank you! Have a nice day!" Click.
What a bizarre conversation! We spoke words back and forth over the phone line, but never effectively communicated anything at all. Makes me wonder - How often do I "hear" people around me without truly hearing them at all? Or, how often have I communicated something to a listening friend without actually connecting the least little bit? And, how can I be engaged and deliberate in conversations with others, preventing ridiculous dialogues like the one with the telemarketer? How often have I tuned out when one of my kids was talking, because I had ear fatigue? And how many times have I mentally moved on to working out my clever response or thinking through my to-do list when "listening" to a friend. At least this recent experience reminds me that listening must be as active an endeavor as speaking.
3 months ago