A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?
I let a friend use my computer and saw the above poem on the screen. I was curious as to where this poem came from so I Googled it hoping to find the author. It’s from around 1883 but the author is unknown. It was reportedly used during World War II by the United States Army to stress that silence means security for the troops. Wikipedia states that it was a nursery rhyme and is based on an owl’s behavior of watching and patiently waiting when hunting its prey.
As I was about to erase the poem and get on with my work, I paused and started thinking about how we sometimes talk too much and listen too little. This happens when all is well, but especially when we are in emotional pain while dealing with a divorce, custody issues, or a difficult relationship with an ex-spouse. We talk to our coworkers about how awful the legalities of our divorce are playing out. We phone our best friends to complain about how hopeless the online dating scene is and why we’ll never find the right person. We rant and moan to anyone who will listen about how bad things in our life are going, the troubles we are enduring, and the sacrifices we have to make.
I took a deep breath and thought for a moment about the poem’s meaning. What if we were more like the wise old owl sitting in the oak tree? What if instead of talking, talking, talking about ourselves, we heard what other people were saying? What if we called our parents to hear what happened in their day without complaining about ours? Like the wise old owl, the less he spoke the more he heard. The more we keep our mouths shut the more we will hear that may benefit our lives and the lives of those around us. If we stop moaning about our jobs, maybe we could hear our coworker talk about an upcoming opportunity that will be beneficial to us. What if the next time we called a friend complaining about the bad online first date we had, we listened to her enabling her to open up about what’s going on in her life making you an even more trusted confidant.
Just like this wise owl who observed without talking so much we can benefit and become wiser in the process. I’m not saying we should never talk or express our feelings again, but think about how much we sometimes dominate the conversation. When someone talks to you, do you automatically bring the subject around to you? When a friend tells you that he’s going to Jamaica on vacation do you automatically exclaim “Oh my goodness, I love Jamaica I went there two years ago with my ex-husband blah, blah, blah” and then proceed to tell them what a wonderful and fantastic time you had before that S.O.B. cheated on you? What if instead you said “That’s great, when are you going? You’ll have a wonderful time, I was there two years ago.” I realize everyone loves to talk about themselves but remember not everyone loves to listen to everyone talk about themselves. Be conscious of what you’re saying and when you’re saying it.
The next time you talk to someone, whether that be a parent, a friend’s, your spouse, lover, coworker or the clerk ringing you up at the grocery store…remember to be like the wise old owl who heard more and spoke less.
*Like this article? Well mosey on over to KimHess.com and sign up to get FREE coaching about your relationship or getting better after divorce! Also, check out my book “From Ex to Next: An Empowered Women’s Guide to Dating after Divorce or Breakup” sold on Amazon.com.