I did a Google search on “The Lost Art of Listening” this morning and got 47,000,000 hits. Books, articles, and PDFs abound, evidence that this is indeed a hot topic. I wonder why? Have we forgotten how to give the gift of listening to one another? Dare I proffer an answer, it being YES?
As part of my college course curriculum, I talk to students about listening.
I ask them, how many of you feel like you are a good listener? Twenty of twenty-five hands go up. Bravo to you only brave and honest souls, I think to myself about the five who didn’t put their hands up.
Then I ask, how many of you ‘multitask’ when you are talking with someone else. Twenty-five out of twenty-five hands go up.
Then I say, how many of you hear? Some hands go up. How many of you listen? Some now look at me with confusion, others give me the “look,” as in, “you have GOT to be kidding…” and one asks, “What’s the difference?”
With this skillfully maneuvered segue, I proceed to talk to them about the fine art of listening versus the passive act of hearing and regretfully send them off on their merry way to their multitasking, multi-stimulated, and non-listening world.
I write about this topic because more and more I also find myself in situations with individuals where they spew words in a non-stop cascade and I quite literally cannot get a word in. If I am so lucky as to nail a small word-nugget or two, I am drowned again in another torrent. It seems that the majority of people I encounter these days very loquacious. I often wonder, is it that people are just talking more and listening less, or am I attracting big-talkers because maybe I am a good listener? Or maybe we ought to think about the importance of the elements of our most basic communication media: person-to-person, face-to-face, voice-to-voice.
One of my favorite poets once wrote:
“We do not believe in ourselves until
someone reveals that deep inside us
something is valuable, worth listening to,
worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch.
Once we believe in ourselves we can risk
curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or
any experience that reveals
the human spirit.”
– E. E. Cummings
(American poet 1894-1962)