The art of listening

Today, while cleaning my apartment, I accidentally spilled some water on my HVAC unit. While the poor brute recovers, I’ve thrown open the windows in my apartment, and for a rare evening, the sounds of the city surround me, penetrating 20+ floors into the sky.

The cacophony of New York street noise is richly celebrated, and for good reason. A bass line is formed by the breeze and the whoosh of faraway traffic. Honks, shrieks, and voices are layered on top. Occasionally, there is the bark of a dog, the squeal of brakes, a whistle…it goes on and on.

If you listen — really listen — it’s amazing what you will hear.

As an escort, the art of listening — the need for my clients to be heard — is not lost on me.

To be more precise: the best escorts are well-versed in the art of nonjudgmental listening. In that, we combine characteristics of the trusted clergy member, the old friend, and the therapist. We can be trusted confidants, if you let us.

Clients come to me in all sorts of emotional states. I listen, contribute what I can, but mostly I shut up and listen. Some clients are down — say, after a breakup. Some are up. Some are down and up at the same time (ever gotten sad when something nominally good happens in your life? Me too.)

Nonjudgmental listening is a skill. A skill I honed in Al-Anon meetings (I’m the adult child of alcoholics). Over the years, I’ve learned to silence the voice in my head that says, “well why don’t you just —“ “I would never do that!” “What a dumb decision!” etc. It’s now replaced by active listening. The type of listening where I take in everything you’re saying — with your mouth, eyes, body, and so on — and wait for you to finish. Then I contribute — maybe it’s a word, or a squeeze of the hand, or a kiss on the cheek, or a nod that encourages you to go on. Or just a smile, as the silence breathes between us, beckoning you to continue.

These listening sessions, I’ve found, best take place while we both recline, our bodies entwined.

Shae Ashbury