I agree with Mr. Covey, that most people don’t listen to understand, but to reply. However, I would go a bit further to say that if your heart’s intention is merely to reply from the beginning, the activity of listening is not truly present, but the activity of hearing. Hearing is when you have heard the words spoken, but not truly allowed them to enter your heart. Hearing and replying is the forte of this generation; dare I say it is even 2018’s deepest obsession. Why? Society implies that to be recognized, one must speak their own opinion without apology, and not to accept that opinion is to reject the person to whom it belongs. Society today implies heavily through the media and the “tolerance” culture that personal opinions are the foundation on which life is built, and that everyone is “entitled” to their own opinion.
Listening, therefore, is a pastime that is exactly such: past, in a time when learning was about discovering the truth and not merely developing another personal opinion. Twenty-eighteen is not a generation that has been raised on the virtue of listening, but of hearing and replying, of elevating oneself, of creating subjective realities that do not measure, and are not required to measure up, to the truth.
Hearing and replying are much more the style of our generation today, and I say this with as much dismay as one can. The hearing and replying and replying and replying is leading our generation to its grave, a grave of immaturity and emotional ignorance. Do you need examples? I can give quite a few:
When Donald Trump became President, the entire collective liberal voice didn’t listen; it heard something it didn’t agree with and didn’t support, and it replied. It replied with an outcry, an outrage, a protest with bitter tears and defiant statements against reality; statements that were accepted as truth though they are as far from it as possible. Statements like, “Trump is not my President” were glorified and made into memes, as if to say, “We don’t need to listen or accept this reality, we need to hear what offends us and reply with a reality of our own”. Yet, here we are today, with Trump still the President of the United States, despite the many vehement replies against it.
MGK (Machine Gun Kelly) made a statement in 2012 towards Eminem’s daughter, Hailie, who was sixteen-years-old at the time; six years later, here we are, hearing Eminem’s vehement reply on a surprise album, and then another vehement reply from MGK that was dropped in as little as 24-hours later. Social media is littered with debates and gossip and opinion after opinion on who is right and who is wrong, and yet, I say, no one is truly listening to anything anyone is saying. We are not a generation of listeners, but of hearers; who hear the voice of offense no matter what is spoken, and reply with our opinion even if not asked.
Nike products are being burned as a reply; not given to the homeless, not donated to Goodwill or other thrift stores where it could still serve a good purpose; and maybe that is where those Nike products would have ended up had America been truly listening and not merely bent on hearing offense and replying. What is the true difference between the two acts of listening and replying?
Listening is an art, a secret key that holds the power to fulfilling every successful relationship, business endeavor, and dream that one can imagine. Listening involves the denying of self, the challenge of considering a truth outside of your current level of emotional intelligence or intellectual understanding, and the humility to accept that truth despite how vehemently opposed to your opinion it turns out to be. Listening is an act that leads to life, success, peace, joy, hope, and inward growth; it is an act that involves maturity of spirit, mind, and body.
Replying is a fool’s errand: a rash activity that anyone, even a brute beast could achieve. Replying is denying truth, holding onto whatever opinion you have, and limiting oneself to a level of understanding that never goes beyond self. Replying is the activity of a hearer; one who hears a foreign sound and is evoked to reply in fear and offence. Replying is a pathway that leads to death, despair, anger, pride, and eventually, complete inward regression. Replying without listening is truly a formula whose end result is that of chaos.
Ah, and there is the true heart of this discussion: how the intent of one’s heart can seem so pure to oneself, and yet bring about such a sullied result for everyone else. Does everyone else truly need your reply, or are you giving it merely because it is yours to give? Is there a purpose other than self-aggrandizement behind your reply? Is there true intention to grow and learn behind your reply, or merely a platform to hear your own voice? Have you truly listened and then replied, or have you merely heard and divulged word?
Of course, as with anything in this realm, replying can serve a noble purpose if it is coupled with its predecessor, listening. Separate it from its cohort, however, and you have the mindset of the entire twenty-eighteen generation: hearing what is spoken without taking off the lens of one’s own perception. Hearing without putting oneself in the other person’s shoes. Hearing and merely staying within one’s own comfort zone of understanding without empathy or regard; then replying with all the emotional vigor one can, just to make sure one is heard. Heard. Not listened to; generating the entire cycle once more.
I beg you, my fellow Millennials and generations of 2018, endeavor to listen. Take the information into your heart and examine it; adopt an attitude of humility and quickness to listen. Do not merely hear; for hearing only highlights what one does not agree with to formulate a reply. If you truly desire to reply, do so after listening first. Listen to a different perspective. Consider an alternate opinion. Empathize with others and enter their realm of reality to understand from where they are originating their point of view. This is an act of relation, an act of accepting another’s humanity and place in this realm. Listening to someone else shouldn’t threaten who you are; it should enlarge who you are and how you are able to relate to others.
Listen, even if you don’t agree. Then, when you reply, it may be with humility. It may be with love and a foundation of communication instead of replies and responses that evoke arguments and foolish wastes of time and emotion. If you learn how to listen, your replies will be uplifting to others instead of yourself. When you learn how to uplift others, you find that self is also uplifted emotionally; you find that relationships and success aren’t things to be abused and tormented with foolish bickering and obstinate opinions.
Listen, and you will find the true home and belonging place of how to reply with dignity and grace; how to reply and create conversation and peaceful debate without promoting arguments and strife. If you truly learn the art of listening, your replies will always be emotionally intelligent and absent of controversy.
Yet, this is my reply. I, too, am of this generation and desire my voice to be listened to; so, I listen. I listen to the cries and the attitudes and the vibes and the shouts and voices of those in this generation speaking out, and those whose voices get drowned in the wake of headlining news titles and media attention. I listen as well as I am able, and then I reply with my emotions stable. I reply with humility and emotional intelligence that says: I will be listened to by those who listen, and heard by those who merely hear; either way, my responsibility is clear. Listen first, and then reply if necessary; not every reply will bear a weight that others can carry.