Learning To Zip My Lip

I’m turning over a new leaf. At least I plan to make an earnest effort to change my ways. Do not confuse this with New Year’s resolutions. Those are always well meaning but difficult to keep. I am aiming for something more permanent.

My “new leaf” will require great constraint. It’s not easy to change life-long habits, but I gave up smoking three decades ago and never looked back so I know I am capable of change. You can’t count the one puff off a cherry cigar last summer. I was under duress and it only reminded me why I gave up smoking in the first place.

My change for 2014 is a bit more subtle. Some may not even notice but my husband will. He reminds me all the time of my bad habit. Here it is: You see sometimes, well, a lot of times, I tend to jump ahead when someone is talking to me. I want to finish their story for them even when I don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about.

I’ve heard the phrase “Would you just let me finish!” many times over.

There, I’ve admitted my weakness. Now setting my plan for reform into motion may prove to be more difficult. I’ve self-analyzed this bad habit and blame some of it on my childhood. Back then you had to talk louder or faster to be heard over the din of the 11 siblings, two barking dogs, the blaring TV and the phone ringing.

Perhaps it’s just my employment in the news business that drives me to get to the heart of a story. I can’t stand long-winded jokes or speeches.

Does this mean I am an impatient person? Only sometimes. Such as the case last week waiting in line to use the photo-making machine at the local drugstore. The person attempting to use it would not ask for help, thus extending her time in front of the machine to 20 minutes past my best nice person smile. I left and found another store with no line at all.

I’m the same way in the car. Driving is no fun anymore. The motoring public, sealed up in its tinted-windowed SUVs, tends to be more bold about cutting lines of traffic or passing on the right. I liked it better when we drove with large, clear windows and you could see who you were motioning to go ahead of you in traffic.

I used to believe I was a good listener. After all, that’s how you learn and that’s how you get a good story. You weren’t worth a nickel on the city beat if you didn’t listen through the door when council members went into an executive session in the old council chambers at Wheeling’s City-County Building. That is until the police chief realized what we were up to and moved us on our way.

Listening is an art. I’ve admired and known several people who are good listeners. They are generous with their time and don’t feel the need to crowd into the spotlight. I have been taking note of them and hope to emulate their behavior.

I can’t promise immediate success. This old dog will need to practice a few tricks first. Wish me luck. I will be listening …

Happy New Year!

Heather Ziegler can be reached at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.