You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time – M. Scott Peck
For awhile, this blog post has been on my mind. It is a topic that I feel is very pertinent in our society because our culture is so very opposed to it. Which is ironic considering that this is the age of social networking and updating statuses and friending and being connected. We strive very hard to connect but it’s an open secret that a lot of people feel that we’re even more disconnected due largely to social networking sites. In the age of media soundbites, sharing our thoughts in 160 characters or less, and responding in texting lingo (k?), everyone seems to be in a hurry and I believe because everyone is in a hurry, no one listens.
When was the last time you had a conversation without being interrupted? When was the last time you held your tongue versus cutting someone off? Can two people even really open up toward one another anymore and actually feel like they have equally gotten to express themselves? I raise these questions because a long time ago I became aware and convicted of the fact that I tend to interrupt people. I am an exuberant type person and I have a lot to say therefore I must talk, talk, talk, all the time in order to get out everything I want to say. I’m not sure when I became aware of this exactly but I did and then slowly I started to not speak as much and slowly I became aware of many times within circles of family or friends where someone would get cut off by another person and the conversation would never circle back to them where they could finish their thought. I felt that I was the victim of this occurrence a myriad times myself. I would try to share something but someone would talk over me or cut me off and I, in an attempt to be cordial, polite, and nice would oblige them by not talking and letting them speak, however I noticed no one would ever oblige me the same courtesy. It would seem that everytime I would try to speak I would get talked over and because this has happened to me a plethora of times I’ve noticed that it happens to people a lot and no one seems to be bothered by it much.
“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” ~ Alfred Brendel
I love the quote by Alfred Brendel, “The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” How perfect and true is that statement! If you rearrange the letters in listen, you can create the word silent. It is a very accurate statement because in order for one person to express him or herself, another person has to remain attentive and silent while they speak. This is one reason why I have come to favor one-on-one times with a friend versus a group setting. I just find that it is hard to feel like I have gotten to learn that much about a person in group settings. And usually I won’t find out anything about someone in a group setting because people that aren’t talking the loudest get marginalized. I also think to a degree people favor group settings versus one-on-one because people fear dead air in a conversation. I overcame this fear awhile ago, I view silence between two people as an opportunity to reflect on the last topic and see if there is anything either I or who I am speaking with want to add. This also serves as a chance to think about introducing an entirely new topic instead of letting conversation flow naturally from one topic to another.
I could write about my frustrations and thoughts on listening and being listened to all day long. It’s become a very important topic for me; it is like a pet peeve except far more serious then just an irritation. For example, when someone is convicted of murder it’s either 1st degree, 2nd degree etc. I view interrupting and talking over people as a first degree offense. It puts you on the fast track for me to not like you and seek to avoid you. Yes, I know it’s crazy to compare interrupting someone to 1st degree murder but hey it’s an analogy, leave it at that. Alas, let me not bore you with my laments but instead challenge you to be a person that listens. And here is why; “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~Karl A. Menniger.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~Karl A. Menniger
How aptly does that put what happens when we feel that we are listened to and have expressed ourselves? Don’t you want to be a person that draws other people to them? Don’t you want to be a person that makes people unfold and expand? Then listen to people. It is so simple and yet it’s rare to find someone that does it. I really think this quote needs it’s own post because of how fierce it is! Because of how I feel about this subject and because of how marvelous that quote is I have decided to start a renaissance of listening and I invite you to join. Decide to be someone that listens to the people around them. It is magnetic, strange, and creative as Menniger said so perfectly. Maybe that’s why this is so important to me, as a creative person listening to people is an art that society has abandoned. Hence, the renaissance. I feel like Les Miserable’s “Do You Hear the People Sing” is playing in the background. Haha! So in the words of Les Mis, will you join in my crusade? Let’s listen to our friends and family. Let’s tactfully point out to people we know that they cut people off. There’s no reason to embarrass someone when all you’re trying to do is help them. Most people aren’t even aware that they do it. Many people are immune to the way that we converse that everyone plays the talk over people game because the only way to be heard is to talk the loudest and oftenest. Let’s change that. Let’s listen. As creative people let’s listen to others, it’s a creative force after all. And isn’t that fierce?
P.S. If you read this entire thing you are fabulous!