Listening, the Lost Art

It was Fall of 2006 and I was doing my English homework.  At my high school, they combine the English classes to have both juniors and seniors in them.  So, during Fall, a lot of writing assignments would revolve around college applications.  This would give the teacher an excuse to critique the seniors’ applications, as well as give the juniors some experience before it was their turn.  I was really thankful for that structure, since I had no idea what I was doing, as evidenced by the mock brag sheet I was trying to fill out one evening.  It was a Friday night, and I thought I’d get a head start on it, since it was due Monday.  My brother was home for the weekend, so I asked for some of his help.  He took a look at what I had so far.

“Listening!?  Are you kidding me?” He exclaimed

“What?  I think that’s one of my strongest skills..” I replied

“What are you?  A vegetable?  Write down some real skills.. something that actually matters.”  He said as he tossed my worksheet back at me.

And so, there was a period of time where I believed that listening was a skill of the brain dead or comatose, for I looked up to my brother.  Of course I was naive, but over time my view would change and I realized how false that statement was.  A young adult in life now, I can’t help but think, “Man, no one really listens anymore.”  I see it everyday.  Conversationally, some people just seek to interrupt others because they believe their point is more important.  Arguments are all about “winning”, rather than presenting the information.  Conversations are left mid-sentence, because the “listener” has all the information they need up to that point.  Back stories aren’t important anymore, some just want to cut to the chase.  And of course the biggest culprit, pulling out your phone when you’re not 100% interested anymore.

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.  We listen to reply.” -Anonymous?

I mean, is it really that hard?  Is it so difficult to sit (or stand) there and hear what they have to say?  I understand, we’re all human, some of us can only handle so much interaction.  And sometimes it depends on our current situation (Do we need to go the bathroom? Am I running late?).  To me, listening has always been a draining task.  I always blamed that on my introverted-ness, but maybe it should be something that is taxing?  In my opinion, if we really want to be able to understand, to help or bear one another’s burdens, it should take a good amount of effort to listen.  It definitely takes patience; more than we know sometimes too.  Although, it can be mistaken for passivity or shyness, in my eyes, being able to listen is a strong trait.  You’re lucky if you know how to listen.  You’re even luckier if you have someone to listen to you.  That being said, I hate it when I’m interrupted, and one of my biggest pet peeves is idle chatter while someone has the floor.  It’s rather distracting.  I especially hate it when I’m explaining something, and I’m cut off by someone asking me a question that would have been answered if they just let me finish.  I don’t think I have much else to say.  I mean, I think we all know what listening looks like, we just don’t do it all the time.  No need to go through any steps or tips.  There’s no secret to doing it, just do it.

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So try it some time.  Listen.  Let them finish their thought before you present yours.  Resist the urge to check right then and there why your phone buzzed.  Gold star if you already do.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” – James 1:19

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