In my next life I want to be a bartender. There is a particularly good one at Harry’ s Bar in Florence and I have his picture above my desk as my friend just sent it to me. His name is “Leo” and everybody adores him. He has a ready smile, a quick wit, and a great martini. I loved meeting Leo when I went to Florence with my friend as I felt as if I were being introduced to his (my friend’s) parents and they liked me. Leo holds the key to the kingdom of disconnected travelers and locks and unlocks them as they arrive daily in Florence. People go to Harry’s just to see him and when they find him gone for an evening or a vacation break they are disappointed and often leave the bar to eat somewhere else. Imagine having that power! Leo hears everything that is going on in business, government and the personal lives of many who go there. Leo, as the saying goes, could really write a book! The interesting thing about being a good bartender is that you have to know the right combination of listening to and divulging information. If this careful balance is off you will find yourself out of a following. Leo must have learned this several years ago. I wonder why all the “Leo’s ” in the world are male? Are men better able to keep secrets than women?Are men better listeners? Yes and no are the answers in my book. Men are definitely better secret keepers though they are gossips and love a bit of tasty info about people they know. Women are better listeners as we can listen without needing to win. We listen without constructing our rebuttal as the other person speaks.We listen as we are actually curious most of the time about what the other person has to say. Maybe we can learn something. maybe we can’t. I remember once many years ago sitting next to a guest at one of our dinner parties and having this man interrupt what I was saying to state, ” That is a pile of rubbish!” I simply stopped speaking and turned to him and asked, “Did you just say what I was saying was a pile of rubbish?” The guest seemed momentarily jolted out of his semi alcoholic haze and turned my way to stare. He said to me, ” I didn’t say that!” “Really ” I said, “I thought I heard those words.”. “Don’t be ridiculous! That was just an expression!” As I recall this man was the CEO of some mega corporation and about 65 at the time. It was my job to charm him so he would go home in good spirits. I was to be his “Leo”. Now maybe I wouldn’t like being a bartender as this is a tough role for me. I can do it for just so long. After a string of rubbish words from a male mouth I have to let some estrogen rip. It comes out in a soft voice like bee honey, treacle and syrup, a trap so well made not even the most canny male can escape incriminating himself. I don’t even remember the exact words I used but I do remember the reaction of my male companion. He suddenly got more sober. He sat up in his chair and looked at me more intently. He said to me, ” I never meant to appear as if I were not interested in what you were saying.” I was astounded. This very powerful testosterone male was actually apologizing to me and seemed very genuine about it. somehow I had penetrated his psyche so he heard me.This incident has remained in my mind for many years as it reminds me that if you learn to speak from your instinctive self and say what is true without blaming the other, interesting things happen. This was an interesting night for a number of reasons. I think it is a good thing to speak from the gut and the heart. People can’t argue with your truth. As a matter of fact, people identify truthful words through tone and expression instinctively and it makes them pay attention. If people had more of Leo in them the world might function more smoothly. Imagine if all the world leaders actually listened to one another instead of constructing a response that would rebut another point of view. We are schooled to debate in our personal and public lives. We are punished as children for not telling the truth and if we do, we are often punished for doing so. I wonder how we can learn to not only speak from our instinctive selves but to know what it is we really want to say: to know what we genuinely want and what we desire for our hearts to be full and content. I find the most challenging place to do this is in relationship with another person for we risk desertion. That is our deepest fear and our deepest desire: to be known. If we reveal our true selves and are abandoned we believe we might not be able to survive the pain. Leo never lets things get that far. Conversations have meaning but never go too far in terms of opinions or accusations. If all of us were more like Leo life might be easier. I respect what you have to say and I will listen. I am able to hear opinions that differ from mine and I expect you to listen to mine. Maybe I won’t come back as a bartender but as a shrink in a Woody Allen film.
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