I heard the other day that May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” but I wasn’t, uh, listening. I said to myself, Why do we need “Better Herring and Screech” month? I thought fish and booze was a banquet in a Newfoundland outport.
Listening is an art, a virtue, and a lifestyle. If you’re around anyone with a bent towards good listening skills, you are one fortunate person. You really need to hang out with good listeners, marry a good listener, and get a job where your boss is—you guessed it—a good listener.
If you yourself are good listener, may I have your phone number, please? If you’re a good listener, you’re bound for success. And said success is measured in strong, safe, and secure relationships: Lovers love listeners, as do preachers, kids, and the lonely and bereaved.
Listening is not merely the act of not speaking when spoken to. Those who wait only until the speaker stops are not listening; they’re simply re-loading.
No, good listening skills involve the art of focused attention, the virtue of sweet concentration, and a lifestyle of dogged determination.
Bad hearing may not be so much an issue with the ear, as it is with the mind. (Please note: People with genuine hearing issues are exempt from the following comments!)
It’s the questionable excuses I struggle with. Ask any teacher or parent about any subordinate (fancy-schmancy word for student or child) and their hearing problems. Ask them how many times they repeat, shout, and finally beg for said subordinate to listen to them.
Students need to be good listeners. Teachers are always giving instructions, going over concepts that demand a keen focus. That would be one of many reasons why electronic gadgets should be banned from the classroom.
Concentration—or the lack thereof—is likely the biggest impediment to listening. (I’ll do my best to be clear and kind on this point, Maurice…Maurice…are you listening to me?) Between those plugs that kids stick in their ears and those dumb, er, Smartphones they stick in their faces, coupled with a flabby mind, it’s a wonder there aren’t more mistakes, missteps, and mishaps by the next generation.
Even a limited vocabulary can contribute to a hearing problem, or at least what we perceive to be a hearing problem. If I hear a word I have never heard of, I may not grasp what the speaker is talking about–and that could lead to the wrong response.
I know how much I appreciate people listening to me. I was Son Number Four (to steal a Charlie Chan line), so there wasn’t always time, energy, or motivation to hear me out. (Hi Mom: You were always a good listener; I was thinking more of my older bros.) Even after all these years, I still like someone to listen to me.
As a father of nine, I need to be sensitive to those dynamics in my own family. Each child-cum-teenager-cum adult has his or her own respective way of needing a good listening ear. I can be a listening ear by simply being there.
Strangely enough, listening can also be done when one is alone. Even when there is no one else speaking, that’s the time to listen to one’s own thoughts. Solitude sometimes is the best environment for a period of measured reflection. We need to listen to ourselves sometimes.
Silence, then, can be one of the most productive contexts for developing listening skills—whether you’re listening to yourself or someone else.
True listening is done with other senses, at other times, and in other ways. We need to listen with our hearts, our eyes, and our minds. Listening may or may not involve words: Maybe we read (hear?) between the lines, sensing body language, or nuanced emotions.
Back to vocabulary: “Hearing” and “listening” are not necessarily the same thing, even though I have used them interchangeably today. You see, I may hear, but I may not listen. The former is simply being aware of the sound of words. Listening, on the other hand, goes much, much deeper, and begs a response of some sort—which could be as expressive as a silent nod.
In the everyday life of the common man, may I suggest you listen twice as much as you speak. Make it an art, a virtue, and a lifestyle. After all, it’s no fluke that our Maker gave us two ears but only one mouth.