Learn to Listen

Have you ever thought you were so right about something that you went into the “telling mode” and refused to listen?  The end result was embarrassment and total loss of control of the entire situation.

A few years ago I was assigned to work as an Army National Guard advisor in Long Beach, California.  In the process of getting settled, I visited the local K-Mart about two blocks away.  I had been in the store about ten minutes when a gentleman approached me and addressed me by name.

“Captain Patterson?”

I answered, “Yes, but I’m an LTC now.”

Come to find out, we had served together in Vietnam and he was now in the National Guard unit I was advising.  Small world!

About three months later I was once again in the same K-Mart when I observed a gentleman in the stationary department who looked very familiar.  I approached him and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t seem to remember your name but I am sure that we have served together.”

I went on to tell him I was in the Army and was now working as a National Guard Advisor.  He politely said he had served in the Navy.  I kept talking.  I told him the only time I had worked with the Navy was during Vietnam.  He told me he had never served there.  He told me about how he had made a lot of friends and traveled to many other countries while in the military.  We decided that a requirement for the US Senate should be to visit a third-world country.  Our conversation went on for about thirty more minutes, until I could tell no more.

I then said, “It looks like we never served together, but I never forget a face.”

The man looked up from the notebook he was holding and said, “I’m Alex Haley.”

The fireworks went off in my head.  This man was the famous author of Roots.

Embarrassed can only begin to describe how I felt.  I immediately, and I do mean immediately, said apologetically, “I’m sorry, Mr. Haley.”

As I scurried toward the exit, I heard him say, “Thanks for reminiscing.”

My first thought was to get as far away as I could.  Distance did not help.  It took years before I admitted meeting Alex Haley, much less how I had forced him to retrace his military career.  The lesson I learned was to listen.

Have you met your Alex Haley? By now you can see I usually learn everything the hard way.  Momma used to tell me there was a reason you only had one mouth and two ears, but as usual, I wasn’t listening.  Now that I’ve embarrassed myself, how about sharing your similar stories?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

R.J. Patterson

R.J. Patterson

Raland J. Patterson earned his MBA with an emphasis in finance from National University. For the past 18 years he worked as a financial planner.

The last six were spent as Regional Vice-President in Europe, responsible for 20 different offices located in seven countries. He served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot from 1970-1971 with the First Cavalry Division.

When he retired from the Army as a Lt. Colonel, he had logged 22 years of active duty. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star with One Oak Leaf Cluster, and 14 air medals, among other awards.

After travelling extensively, he now lives in his hometown of Blue Ridge, Georgia. He brings an insiders knowledge of detailed military protocol and experience along with small town American values.

Get in touch…
rjpattersonbooks@msn.com or 706-258-3438
Subscribe to RSS Feed

Add RJ Patterson Books to your RSS Feed:

Sugar Creek
Click here to purchase Sugar Creek today!

Traditions run as deeply in the North Georgia Mountains as the roots of the massive, old oaks growing in the area.
Families like the Barkleys on Sugar Creek, lived and worked together in order to survive the hardships of the thirties and forties.

Bear Cat
Click here to purchase Bear Cat today!

In route to Vietnam in the summer of 1970, Captain Johnny McKay kept hearing his father’s words in his head, Make them a good soldier, son.
Every soldier onboard that flight had one goal in common – come back alive.

Click here to purchase Hogback today!

Hogback is a suspense novel, which explores the age-old dilemma of good versus evil.
As a teenager, Jim Coleman, found himself in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Upon his release he sets off on a trail of vengeance that leads him through small Georgia towns with a mounting body count in his wake.

Click here to purchase Hoverdown today!

Hoverdown is a revenge-driven thriller tracking the lives of three men.
Beginning in Vietnam, a skilled helicopter pilot, Bill Dant, foolishly accepts an opportunity to deal drugs to his fellow soldiers. Platoon leader Captain Sam Wright is instrumental in sending him to prison.

Talking Rock
Click here to purchase Talking Rock today!

Legs, a thirty-something single mother, has had enough of entitled rich men using her for their own purposes.
To match her hot body, she creates a confident, in-charge alter ego determined to turn the tables and exploit them.

Silver Bullets
Click here to purchase Silver Bullets for Managers today!

For me, managing awesome teams was both rewarding and exciting.
I learned early on that great managers take care of their team members; they do the right things for the right reasons. By helping team members focus on the same vision, they will begin to feel as if they’re playing a championship game every day.

The Ledger
Click here to purchase The Ledger today!

Throughout a grueling, extended tour in the jungles of Vietnam, Captain Dean Crosby lived for the adrenaline rush.
A born loner, Crosby recorded each mission into a ledger, ranking missions based on the difficulty and the high he felt afterwards. The sum of his emotional life rested between the leather-covered pages of The Ledger.