Each person in this world has created their own universe around them. We are the “sun” of our own universe. The rest are just the minor bodies revolving around us, and we have the moral obligation of enlightening these bodies.
We are undoubtedly the most important person in our respective universes.
Our survival instincts have ensured that we give utmost importance to our well being. However, being human we also are blessed with some beautiful and divine feelings like love, compassion, empathy and humility which sometimes do overpower our baser instincts like greed and selfishness. These baser instincts in turn feed the not so noble feelings of jealousy and hatred.
Most of the times when our baser instincts overpower the love and compassion which lies dormant, we listen but not with the intent to understand the other person but only to provide him or her with a fitting reply.
In this fast-running, self-serving world, in which people prefer social status over happiness, and luxury over love, why would someone try to understand what the other has to say if there is nothing in it for them? The reason they would listen someone would either be to feel important, to give inputs, or to make a point. As “suns” of our universe, we should consider it our duty to shine over and illuminate others.
Many believe that if they do not show off their knowledge or their intelligence in a conversation, their ‘market value’ or social standing will be impacted drastically. Therefore, they listen, but with an intent to reply.
Even as parents or guardians we are so concerned with playing our part that we deliberately or inadvertently choose not to understand what our ward expresses. We want so much to fill him or her with the experiences we have acquired (how special those experiences are!) that we forget to understand and appreciate their unique experiences or to see the world through their eyes. Also, many times, we are so full of our biases and preconceived notions that we hardly give a thought to what a person is saying but we give huge importance to who those words coming from.
Say a person approaches me to say “hello” or simply to enquire about my wellbeing. As soon as I see him approaching me, and before the words have left his mouth, my past experiences about the person would clog my mind and I would listen to him with the intention of replying to him based on how I judge him. The words may be “hope you are doing good.” or “how have you been?” but my response will be varied. I may choose to respond with sarcasm, gratefulness, magnanimity or compassion based on my judgment of him as a person.
Our preconceived notions block the true meaning of our conversation. In such situations, we usually miss the true intent of conversation and figure out our own skewed meaning based our conventions.
No matter what the actual truth is, we tend to confuse what we hear with what we want to hear, for it makes things convenient for us. Our psychology interprets and clouds things we see and hear and gives us a particular perspective which suits our biases and beliefs. So that it does not threaten our acquired principles and value system.
A person I consider stingy may come and tell me that he has suffered huge losses. I assume that he is asking for money and reply that unfortunately I don’t have any money either. Perhaps that’s not the truth. Perhaps he’s only sharing his woes and looking for compassion and advice. But the image of his seeking compassion does not suit me, because I have a different image of him in my mind, which I don’t want to change.
If we listen, with an uncluttered mind to what others are saying, we could assimilate the words and truly understand. There are people who do just that. People, who listen to understand. They are ones who are comfortable with themselves, who feel that not only them but everyone is special and unique in their own way. They are ones, who feel that everyone, no matter where they come from are worthy of respect. They are the ones who are true seekers, true learners. They have the hunger to learn from one and all.
A glass which is full, can only spill water if more water is added to it. The same is true for knowledge. A person who thinks he knows it all cannot learn. Only the ones who can un-fill and un-learn can learn for they are receptive to new ideas. They are ones who indeed want to understand life and people. They are not afraid to assimilate other people’s ideas into their system
It takes courage and faith in human goodness, to be receptive to other person’s ideas.
Imagine if people were more willing to try to understand each other. Most of the miscommunications and subsequent misunderstandings would never happen. Putting your effort and patience towards understanding someone is very rewarded, not in money, or material things, but in happiness and peace.
Most people let go of true happiness and compassion, and communicate only to make a point and to show that they are better. Please consider that outsmarting someone may increase your market value or feed your ego but it may not make you likeable.
Listen, and intend to understand, and the quality of your communication, relationships and life will improve drastically. For sometimes we are not looking for solutions but empathy. We want to ensure that we are not alone and there are people who love and understand us. It is when we start listening to people to understand them by being non-judgmental that the world can become a better place to live.