I began this blog while waiting for a client and thinking of people I have met in all the years of working with seniors. I proudly smiled when realizing the number of lives I have “touched.” A thousand lives or more, if I do some very abstract math. Wow, I was beginning to feel like Mother Teresa until in a humbling moment I thought…how many lives have touched mine?

I am no different than my clients. We share worries about family; health; deadlines; to-do lists and finances. I am determined to be at my best before leaving home or office. A smile for everyone and focusing on their story is a must. Larry King has said: “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” He’s right. Why? People matter.

There are a million stories and most of us do not come close to hearing or even appreciating them. To touch or be touched by a life is to listen. Listening is a powerful skill and one continually needing practice. The best listener is always “in the moment.” When meeting a new or an old acquaintance, forget who you are, look the other person in the eye and pay attention to their body language. Golden Rules good listeners adhere to include the following:

• Pay attention and respond appropriately. Listeners should respect a pause in conversation and not jump in with empty words. Be careful not to finish the other person’s sentences. They don’t belong to the listener.

• Sarcasm, unless shared, has no place in conversation. Finding common ground does.

• Ask questions such as “How?’, “Remember when?”, and “What?” Try to have a visual picture of the responses. Put yourself in their shoes.

• Tell related stories or share some of your friends’ stories. Never outdo the other’s story.

• Only interrupt with kindness.

My personal favorite when meeting someone in their home is to be aware of their surroundings. I once asked about a flag displayed on a shelf and ended up hearing the story of the owner and how he had stormed the beach on D-Day. Another time a compliment on an apron led to a fun discussion of the “old days” when food was canned and stored in cellars. Gardening tips have been shared when complimenting a flower bed and the cost of living fully examined after perusing a grocery ad. Stories are found everywhere if one listens.

This writing began by talking about touching lives. When listening to someone’s story a void is filled in each of us and we grow from a conversation. Our lives are touched. When listening to the storyteller their lives are touched because someone cared enough to listen.

“If you pay attention to the world, it’s an amazing place. If you don’t, it’s whatever you think it is.” …Reggie Watts.

“One mouth, two ears.” …Mom

Now listen.

Robbie Nathan is a consultant for Bridge to Better Living. She believes there is a story everywhere.

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