To Answer before Listening -That is Folly and Shame

To answer before listening. – That is folly and shame ( Proverbs 18:3 )


We all know them.

Those who answer before listening to all the facts. Those who ask the unasked for questions. Those who give the unasked for advice, those who simply do not understand or even try to. Those who know all the answers.

To listen before answering is an art, something to be learnt and practised.

On Saturday I sat amongst about three hundred women of various ages. They were all gathered in one place for the same purpose, to raise  funds for Teddyland Daycare at the Baby Therapy Centre  where I have been working for more years than I care to tell. As I looked around me, I wondered how many unlistened to stories hid behind the smiling faces, the happy buzz of voices and the laughter.

Through the years many many parents and their babies with special needs walked through our doors for the first time. Stress and anxiety visible in their faces. Sometimes anger is the uppermost emotion of the day, at other times fear and despair for the future reigns. Sometimes denial and disbelief.

Those:  This can’t be happening to me feelings.

What do they need most of all?

Someone to listen before answering. Someone to listen with their heart. Someone to listen without advice. Someone to just be there. Someone to practise the art of listening.

Through the years I learnt that as professionals we need to listen to parents. After all they are the ones who go home and spend 24 hours a day with their child. They know their child as we don’t, they live with their child.

To listen is an act of kindness and healing, it is a choice we make, a choice to give the other time. Time to voice and express feelings no matter how bad the feelings without neccessarily needing the solutions. Solutions often follow if feelings have been expressed and listened to.

I know professionals are trained to try and fix the problem. To look at the child objectively, to diagnose and to treat.


Do we stand back and consider the effect the problem have on the person, the family, the marriage, the interpersonal relationships of those around the unfortunate one? Do we consider how much more effective our treatment would be if the parents and other family members find themselves in place of reasonable emotional peace? I say reasonable emotional peace for I realise that living with and caring for a child with special needs is an ongoing and never ending struggle.

Do we waste time and money if a treatment session was spent listening and allowing a parent to voice feelings, to cry, to be angry,even to blame us the professionals? I don’t think so, I think it is time and money wisely spent for an emotionally well parent brings up an emotionally well child.

To all us professionals out there ( and note I say us as I include myself) .

Let us learn to listen before answering,


As our cleaning lady once said: Let us not talk into another’s mouth, for how can we know that which is in another’s mouth?     





When Blah Blah Become Words.

Words amaze me.

Often when standing in the supermarket queue , I listen to conversations around me. Because I live in South Africa with 11 official languages it is inevitable that I would not always understand the conversation.

If I listen long enough and allow the words to  swirl around me filling my consciousness with sound, it becomes music. It has phrases and intonations. It has soft sounds speaking of tenderness and love. It has playful sounds telling a story of people who know one another well enough to tease and laugh together. It has dark harsh sounds warning of danger and anger. It has melancholy sounds expressing sadness and loss.

Sounds like an orchestral symphony?

Yes and if I listen long enough some of the blah blah will become meaningful and then it is called words.

Sometimes as I try to write about life, I can’t find the words to express how I feel. Then I read the post  by  Botteldworder,  Simple Word Love  and realised releasing the words flying around in my mind and emotions is to allow them to live.

How often do we not keep our words expressing how we feel captive, allowing them to die and become noxious matter in our minds untill that day when they break out of the cage and cause havoc in our own and the lives of others. Maybe I release the words and feelings today and it sounds like blah blah to another, but one day, maybe one day, it will gain meaning and become words bringing healing or joy or sadness to the reader.

Even if  no one reads my words,even if it is just blah blah to others, it sets me free to watch the words fly away taking  my thoughts and feelings with them.


Comme Çi, Comme Ça

I look around me and see fresh young faces. No grey hair, no wrinkles, only eager to learn and experience life faces.

Facepalm French 01_B

One however is different. This one face has many silver highlights in her hair and lots of wrinkles telling a story of a life lived for a long time. A face that knows the tomorrows are less than the yesterdays. A face  showing determination to live the tomorrows  still to come to the full.

That face belongs to me and I find myself amongst all the youngsters in a a French language class.

The class starts and to my shock the lecturer fires rapid French with large expressive gestures, strange inflections, many nasal sounds and the all important gutteral R sound at the class.Then he looks at us expectantly wanting answers from us.

Thus the first rule of the class is established: No English allowed.

The philosophy being that learning a language starts by understanding first and then speaking. As a speech language therapist this makes  a lot of sense to me, but being on the receiving side is a whole different ball game. For the first time I now understand why a person who is on the Autism spectrum  once said people talking, sounds to him like just a lot of blah blah blah.

After three hours in the class , the blah blah  become a bit less and the meaning of some words and sounds begins to find a place in my consciousness.  In the course of the morning my name is frenchified and I become MaRtiè. We learn greeting and presenting ourselves  and had to repeat the same words and phrases many times.

The lecturer reminded us that French originates from Latin and therefore needs big mouth movements and expressive gestures and facial expressions  to accompany  the language. Polite and softly spoken English has no place in this class,  be loud , be expressive shrug your shoulders wave your hands. In short embrace the French culture to truly learn the language.

I went home feeling totally exhausted. After all it had been many years since I had to learn a completely new skill.

How do I feel about my new venture in to learning. I don’t really know, maybe so so for now .

But I will keep on learning and join the one older student who told me:” Don’t worry us oldies stick it out.”

As the French say: Comme Çi  Comme Ça !

Facepalm French 01_I

Illustrations by Natalie Nourigat