Conversation often turns into an excuse to discuss oneself, and talking with someone who seems to have a knack for turning the conversation back to himself is exhausting.
The unselfishness of speedily and gracefully distracting ourselves from self is also singularly difficult to practice.
Yet it’s somehow a natural conversational occurrence. Whether it’s a sincere desire to help someone by sharing a similar experience or an unconscious competitive streak, we hear a story and we want to add something from our own lives into the mix. Resisting this urge is critical for what Faber calls “kind listening. But like many other kindnesses, it involves a degree of self-sacrifice.
I think of the Girl dating at some point in the future — within the next, say, 25-30 years — and one of my most deeply held requirements (as if I’d have any say) for any young man interested in her would be that he show the ability to listen. It’s a rare gift these days, and I fear it will be rarer still when the time comes.
The quoted excerpt is from Father Frederick Faber’s Spiritual Conferences, excerpted here.