I was talking to the farrier today about her horse. I adore the farrier and am genuinely interested in her horse and like always to hear the stories. But as I was out in the field with the dear red mare dozing as she got her feet done, I thought: listen.
I know about listening. I’ve written about listening. There’s a whole chapter in 77 Ways about listening. Yet sometimes I forget to listen. I get all excited and think about the thing I’m going to say next. My mind leaps about like a jumping bean and my voice rises to an inexplicable register and I can’t keep my hands still.
Stop, I said to myself. Hear what the farrier is saying.
So I stopped and I heard and that was better.
And when it was my time to speak I thought: what are the sort of things I love to hear about my own horses? A complete stranger made me almost fall over with joy the other day when he looked at the red mare and said: ‘She’s very gentle, isn’t she?’ That was like a Nobel Prize for me. A friend said this morning: ‘Oh, she is a brave girl.’ And sometimes people ask questions about her and I love that too. Say those things, I thought; say the things you would like to hear. Ask questions. Don’t just make blanket statements about what you think.
So I did that, and that was better too.
There are skills in life which seem so small and so obvious that the temptation is to think one knows how to do them. They are like the ABC. They are taken for granted and not considered. Today, I went back and considered. I think listening well and using empathy and not making everything about you are all tiny things that add to the sum total of human happiness. They spread a little brightness instead of adding to the dark. Take a deep breath, I tell myself, and count to ten. Remember how to do the obvious things well.