On Listening

Dear person with whom I only spoke briefly but who was so sure you knew the cure for my son’s cvs:

I was hurt by your comment. Not because of what you said, but because you didn’t listen. You didn’t listen, because you didn’t even ask. You didn’t ask what the cause of it is (for him, it’s caused by a fatty-acid disorder that requires him to take L-carnitine daily). You didn’t know that there are others in the family with milder symptoms of this, and that I am also on L-carnitine to treat this. You didn’t ask if diet played a role (it does, but not in the way you suggested; we know that dairy is a trigger for him at times, as is chocolate). You didn’t know that we’d tried fixing it without meds, but that it didn’t work. You didn’t ask, and therefore didn’t know, that he sees a good team of doctors, in genetics and GI, who have actually gotten his episodes under control. You had no idea how often I’ve heard that my boys would be cured if they just made this or that dietary change and that I’m just fed up with hearing it.

I would’ve gladly told you all these things, if you’d asked and listened. Really. I don’t openly share these things unbidden, but if you had shown you were truly interested and asked, I’d have divulged more details.

But then, I wasn’t listening to you, either. I didn’t listen to the subtext in what you were saying. In telling me that this dietary change would fix my son’s problem, I didn’t listen to hear that, most likely, you or someone in your family had had a great success with a medical issue through making this dietary change. I didn’t listen for the gratitude you have for that cure, and the excitement to share that relief with others. I didn’t think to remember the times I’ve found a seemingly miraculous fix and have been overzealous in sharing that with others without listening to their unique situations. Situations where the cure I found might not work for them.

Maybe next time you’ll ask and listen before immediately suggesting a cure. Maybe in your zeal you’ll forget to listen. I can’t control that. But I hope that next time, I’ll be sure to listen to the subtext and not completely dismiss you, even if I don’t think your suggestion a good one for me.

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