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Can You Hear Me Now?

January 4, 2015

Listening“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill

In the Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sounds of Silence” there is a line that says, “People speaking without listening”.  It seems to me that it is rare today to find someone who actually listens.   We have a lot of conversations during each day, but how much listening is taking place?

Have you ever shared something with someone who as soon as you have finished, and sometimes before, they relate what you have just said to something in their life?  A person who is actually listening would ask a question or two, or would, at least, offer a comment of some kind related to what you have just said.  Sometimes as you are sharing information you can see the other person’s brain working, just waiting for you to finish so they can jump in with what surely is more important to them than what you have said.

In the episode of Frasier titled “Breaking The Ice”, the character Roz (Peri Gilpin) is talking about a problem she has and Kelsey Grammer injects how is father has never said, “I love you” to him.  She responds with, “Maybe if he had, you wouldn’t be so emotional needy that when a close friend asks for your advice, you steer teh conversation back to your own problem”!  That is a great question.  Why are people so needy that they can’t listen, at least for a minute or two, without sharing their own story?  Is it the only way we can converse, by relating a fact from our own life?

When I used to do pre-marital counseling I had an exercise that helped teach a couple to listen.  I would have them sit facing each other, knees touching, toes touching, holding hands.  One of them would then tell the other ten reasons why they loved the other person.  Maintaining eye contact, the other person could not respond until all ten reasons were said. Then they would switch roles.   It was amazing how hard it was for the listener to remain still and quiet.  Often about half way through the listener would turn to me and say, “So I can’t respond yet?”   By the way, this is a great exercise for any couple having an argument, get in position and let each of you say how they feel without responding until the other is done.

It is said that listening is an art, a skill.  Evidently, the majority of us are neither artistic nor skilled.  To me this seems odd.  When did we all stop being listeners?  If you think about it, we begin life as listeners.  As children we are listeners, at least at first.  I guess maybe this is where we begin to tune others out.  How many times have you heard a parent say, “Listen to me, pay attention”?  By the time we reach adulthood we have developed the skill of not listening.

Sadly, to gain back a skill we should have never lost, we need to relearn the art of listening.  Books and DVDs are made to help us, at an expense of course.  But the expense of not listening is worse.  Not only is money lost in companies, but lives can be lost if one is not listening.  From a man using an elevator when not hearing that there was a fire above, to an airline pilot mishearing taxi instructions that led to a fiery crash, to who knows how many deaths when a nurse or doctor mishears, causing latrogenic deaths.  For most of us, the consequences are not so high, but how much better would our relationships be if we listened?

The reason therapy works, often, is that we simply have someone who will listen to us.  Just imagine how much better the world would be if we all took the time to listen, especially to someone with whom we disagree.

Thanks for listening!






One Comment leave one →
  1. Betty permalink
    February 8, 2015 3:11 pm

    I love the opening quote. I know when I am talking to someone and I can tell they are not listening I feel like an invisible Ninja. Especially when you are talking to someone on the phone and you can hear them hitting the keyboard.

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