Proper listening: a fosterable lifeline

By Ayomide Oluwagbenga. Ayomide, 21, is a graduate of food science and technology from Akure, Nigeria. Please read her entry and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“Were you even listening?” Laura asked her mother with eyes blazing with surprise and annoyance.

“Erm… Yeah. You were saying…,” came Tara’s feeble reply. She had been listening quite well when her daughter approached her and gently requested for a discussion as she was relaxing on the backyard swing that cool afternoon. She was glad to have her sit on the next swing and have a hearty chat since she had been sulking for days with no particular reason. But until she started thinking of the suitable advice to give her 13 year old daughter who seems distressed by an unstable love life, she hadn’t realized she had missed some important parts.

“Oh, dear, I’ve always told you that boy wasn’t good enough for you,” she completed.

“That’s what you always do. I keep talking to the wall and then you wonder why I don’t involve you in my affairs. This is just impossible!” Laura furiously said and ran into the house.

This scenario may come up sometimes, in different ways, in conversations during coaching, school sessions, social events, private meetings and other setups between friends, relatives, partners, colleagues, and even strangers, such that when there is no proper flow of communication. Needs are not met, crises arises, cases seem unfathomable and the solutions seem cumbersome. Really, when Stephen R. Covey said that “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” he must have observed the usual train that leads conversers to nowhere or somewhere of misplaced priority. It’s common for one who listens to be lost at some point and leave the speaker hanging in the balance as the statement is suddenly interrupted or he or she doesn’t get the required response.

There have been a lot of coaching and discussion on the importance of proper communication, and while many think they can listen as well as speak effectively, a few observant persons and intellectuals have been eager to develop good listening skills. It’s important to know that communication through any medium is the essential thread that is used to make the crochet of coexistence and life in itself. In listening, one may think he or she is familiar with topic which is being discussed by the other and may only focus on the points to add to make the talk worthwhile. Or one may be carried away by thoughts of other important or worrisome matters and lose track of what is being discussed, or one may not be patient to follow the discourse of an unfamiliar topic. In whatever way that listeners do not flow properly, it causes a breach which could inadvertently or purposefully be disastrous to the situation on ground.

Many fights have been caused when words are not understood and rather misinterpreted, many safeties have not been ensured when people don’t pay attention to the precautions being announced, many relationships have crashed when either one or the other feel they don’t understand each other even when communicating, and many societies have been sabotaged when commandants give instructions based on one-sided opinions. It should be of concern to us as social beings that we can save the lifeline that connects us to others by holding on to the message being passed across and not just listening.

The speaker might even give up on explaining what is intended when there is a forehand warning of lack of interest, but he or she would be appalled on realizing that the time spent on talking has been for naught as the other person(s) may speak out of context or take the entire conversation to a whole advanced or different level unintended. I believe teachers could have hard times in making the answer scripts of students particularly in a case where they are given a question relating to what has just been discussed in class. While some could respond verbatim, some could explain as they perceive and some could have no clue, forming a mix of wrong and right responses. It is not just about the responses, what about the lecture and the lack of impact in solving problems?

As much as proper speaking skill is required in all circumstances of communication, so also is the need to listen and understand. Speakers are the starters of conversations and they must be able to carry their audiences along the jolly or dreary path of discourse, but the main highlight of any dialogue is when a right feedback is gotten from the listeners. In the scenario painted above, Laura, a struggling youth, expected a right response from the adult she opens up to in the ability to understand her challenge and provide the care she needs at that time, but then realize that her mum had not paid full attention, ascribing it to the perceived usual behavior she does in the mothering thing. Obviously, the case wasn’t resolved then as the communication line got cut off and as Bryant H. McGill declared that “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say,” there was no respect in handling the turn out.

Anyone can develop good listening skills with discipline and it takes determination to follow through in getting communications effective when we try to dispel our own thoughts and fully concentrate on what is being said while also taking note of the surrounding conditions to know how to properly respond. Hence, as we all consciously decide to listen to understand the other, we would find the lifelines for love, friendship and care readily available and we can cultivate it by being engaging in the positive interest of what is being discussed as that elevates our healthy sociality.

37 comments on “Proper listening: a fosterable lifeline

  1. Ayomide Ruth on

    This is really an interesting way of highlighting the importance of good communication among individuals. The writer has dramatically revealed that if we do not understand while listening and only let our minds run to and fro in a discourse, with the intent to respond, sociable bonds can be broken. It is good that she has also made it clear that this lifeline, that is listening to understand, which is really necessary for the survival of our society and societal relations is fosterable.

  2. Adunmoye Ifeoluwa on

    This is a lovely piece. The fact is many communicate but few collect. Collect here means to understand. The piece remind me that the purpose of effective communication shouldn’t be to reply but for proper understanding.

  3. Paul Adams on

    This is fantastic and very interesting. The ability to communicate effectively is an important skill in today’s world. Communication is a dynamic process and how you communicate can positively and negatively affect the relationships you have in your careers and life.
    According to the writer: listening and the state of our mind are the important tools in an effective communication.

  4. Patience on

    Very true, the need to imbibe this salient communication skill cannot Br over emphasized. I trust this will be a stepping stone to it’s actualization. Nice work.

  5. Patience on

    Very true, the need to imbibe this salient communication skill cannot be over emphasized. I trust this will be a stepping stone to it’s actualization. Nice work.

  6. Aanuayo on

    This is really educative. It is important to develop good listening skills so as to not push the speaker off balance… Just let’s all try to understand people’s intent while we listen to them so as to communicate well

  7. Aboginije Toyin on

    This is interesting. What the writer wrote about is really happening in all spheres of life, we see communication problem between husband and wife, parents and children and if this is not solve, there will be no mutual relationship. Communication occurs when both the speaker and the listener understand each other.

    • Ayomide Ruth on

      Hmm… It’s really a heartache in many social cycles. And like one adopts a child and raise her up well, we can begin fostering the habit of good communication.
      Thanks for your view.

  8. Tolulope Adegbola on

    This is awesome, I love it. It really indicate what is actually happening in the society. So many problems could have been solved with effective listening.

    • Ayomide Ruth on

      Wow… Thanks!
      Yes, really.
      It will be nice if education can include special teachings on how to talk and respond properly. Although cultures and background have been in the role of educating concerning this, all around the world, we still need conscious efforts to be made to ensure the peaceful and loving world we crave when we communicate effectively.

  9. Olu'femi Agunloye on

    I’ve always told people “listening” is the most important part of communication and this just goes a long way to affirm my views.
    This is a very beautiful piece.

  10. Tumisang on

    A very well written piece. I was led to introspect and address my own listening habits. Good communication is indeed a skill that must be learnt and that can save many relationships and communities even.

  11. Olusegun Faith Emmanuel on

    This is very true. Now that technology, gadgets, smart phones, Facebook, whatsapp, Skype etc are taking a larger portion of our time than we spend listening to people around us. We now listen well for chat beeps. We only listen to grab keywords that will enable us give some primordial responses at least to FAKE some “I’m listening to you attitude”. The reason is not far fetched that we often lose them to ravenous wolves who listen to understand them in order to take advantage of them. I think if our phones’ batteries can be constantly low, perhaps we would devote more time to hear out, care for, listen to and understand the people who trust we would listen to them.

    The change begins with me. I’ll listen more and understand people around me. I’ll control distractions: manage technology and will not allow technology to manage or control me.

    C’est mon perspective, merci.

  12. Abimbola Ipinnuoluwa on

    While the writer’s analogy is true, proving the saying that “such is Life”, typical of what break many diverse type of relationship, yet communication as a lifeline between two or more individuals is a two way things.
    First of all, each individual must grow up, with little or no assistance from concerned party; in interpersonal communication skills. It should be noted that each stage example of discommunication experienced by individuals as highlighted by the writer, although interrelated or contiguous are usually incongruous to each other. Someone say this point in a better ways, he said our expectations of others, especially for couple, should be voiced out rather than grumbled about, or rather we should initiate our expectations of others by doing for them to attain peace of mind and satisfaction, that is, I want my husband to play with me all the time, do it yourself by playing with him and if he is available, he will join you or otherwise let you know if he is not, at the moment and vis versa, if the husband prefer cooking at home budget rather than eating at public joint budget, he should make sure known to his wife rather than just trying to compromise. Life is issues that must be handled with care amicably. Now to some of those examples discussed by the writer, one, the relationship between mother and her daughter, it’s normal, we should accept that fact because that’s the key to resolution. Secondly, age is telling on our parents and the more you grow up because human attitudes to life are different, i.e., just like we have melancholy, we have sanguine and so on, yet, in between, some are thinkers while some are listeners but who have no clue, talkless of those refer to as “oloyaya”. Moreover, some will either be optimistic or pessimistic, yet, some tend towards ambivert or extrovert or introvert characteristics. Almost all these aforementioned characteristics can exist in one person.
    That’s why, even those we can’t avoid arguments, yet we must take Life easy. Also, I could infer that the daughter was edgy and impatient. This thus behoves the mother, despite her age to go after her daughter even in her busy schedule to first of all firmly calm down her daughter to foster continuous discussion. Also, we the speaker must know that communication is a body language art and science that requires eye contact, lip reading, checking if you’re following me, pausing for the message to sink in and checking if the listeners want an avenues to give feedback or response. In all this, I blame neither parties, because what the kid couldn’t learn from her mother, as she grow up, life will teach her. We learn from others past mistake easily and also ours in a more difficult way to become better person every days. That’s why apostle Paul says, I behave as a kid when a kid and mature when I grow up.
    Communication require calm posture and open minded to relate with the other parties, to accept others’ over your own mindset expectations.
    After family, miscommumication between friend or amongst friends is the worst. I don’t know more about couple, especially in early stage of marriage, since I am still single. But between friend, I have two to three different types of friends characteristics, one stay with me in my lodge during our final year transition, I have often wondered and thought deeply why he would compliment me or about my attitudes that I am gentle, generous, understanding, calm, tolerant and patient, open-minded yet the most stubborn person he ever known, hmmmn, you can imagine, right, UCTP yet S. The second person here come once in a way, but our relationship only cross paths during this our final year, although we have known each other for long but didn’t interact, maybe due to being in different department, distance and all, unlike an everyday close friend. Anyway, when we both discuss together, he pay attention like me and if he disagree, he ask for audience to speak his mind and we goes back and forth like that, that people, even the first person notice and describe our relationship or him as my best friend, although the second person also agree that I am stubborn but he more agreed that I am rather princpled or uncompromising rather say that I am stubborn. So in our little disagreement, we easily make up unlike the first. The third person, a great friend, if I tell him my mind, he knowing himself and his ability try to understand, give feedback if possible then break it down to where it concern both of us in our part, then when it is time for him to do it own, he would do it well. Now, you can see that I have not much problem with two other parties mentioned here, except the first. This make me reason that one’s background and peer pressure goes a long way in determining the kind of person you grow up to be. For the first person, whenever I am saying something, because of the fact that he is stimulated into too much street Life (life of “be smart”) thinking, he is too quick to jump to conclusion at time, in between my discussion with him and at times, he always second guess my moves or motives. The worst is that, to him I am stubborn but to me, I believe myself to be principled. He and others want me to incorporate their lifestyle but they in his categories did not want to incorporate my biblical foundation. So what do I do in this case, whenever it happens, I just listened and keep quiet. If I was giving a feedback and he second guess it, I keep quiet and end my part in the discussion. Between I, the first person, and the second person, even the second person would say I, the author, amifficult but that the third person was more stubborn than I. So, I understand one thing about an argument or when communication breaks down, it is not largely your fault as it goes or as they say, except if you know in your conscience, that you are guilty. People blame others to skip responsibility.
    So communication is really and truly an imperative business. I thank the writer for this engaging story and interactive discussion about one of the bane or canterworm that eats deeply into family, friend, society-government-media on a serious note.

    N.B: as for the other parties, one of them once say on my birthday, that you wouldn’t know the kind of person or the belief or the principle the author here hold unto until you get closer, you will only believe in hearsay about the author that he’s stubborn. And also, one of them who have brief interaction with me, like the above complimenter, during our group assignment could see that I am actually different from what he heard about me and we work together without much issues except that of I not only wanting to meet the deadline but placing more priority on perfect jobs while he, in order to meet deadline commit mistake, making the assignment look shoggily done. Beyond that, there was no issues. As group leader, every work I did to which he make some changes, there was no complaint unlike the popular belief that I am stubborn, always did my own. He learnt differently during our moments together.
    But what now happens to those who complained that I am stubborn or do my own alone, the second person could infer and deduced based on the opinion of mine about them, to which he investigated by asking them and they replying in the affirmative that because they know that I love to do work, they have decided to let me do the work but that they don’t like my doing it alone work, that I should have call them or check on them to give them update all the time, lolz, so funny; so the second person deduced that they were the bad one, lazy and stubborn.
    Hence, when conflict occurs, they would blame it on you, the serious and gentle one, to escape responsibility.
    Finally, as for student-teacher issues, I could only infer that those whom the students populace accept as good lecturers are so because they choose to be, regardless of their level and status while if any lecturers is bad, they are so because they choose to be and this would reflect in their teaching pattern as well as their marking scheme. Thanks so much for your engaging topics. Ruth has done it again with her pen of critical thought.

    • Ayomide Ruth on

      Ipinuoluwa, I read through every line and pondered on each word to opine and not gainsay that effective communication is the handiwork of both a good speaker and a good listener, with certain peculiarities of the parties being put into consideration and a mindset to iron out every ruffle that may occur in different situations that require interactions.
      Really, thanks for this detailed explanations that open up more of the mind-eye to realities.

  13. Oluwatobi_E on

    I really did learn a lot from this piece. When someone is speaking, I must work on dispelling my own thoughts(and u think this is really important because our minds are always busy) and then I must hold on to what the speaker is saying. I should listen to understand and not reply, because that’s in itself is the secret to giving a relevant reply or no reply sometimes. I guess this is why we feel comfortable with friends who let us voice out our deepest fears patiently without them trying to know or give all the correct answers. And isn’t it just wonderful that somehow, they usually tend to have just the right answers we need?
    Thanks again Ruth for this enlightening piece.

  14. Emmanuel on

    It is true that proper understanding is required in conversations, if this principle has been adhered to many wars that have cause lot of innocent people blood to be shed would have been averted

  15. Elizabeth Olubambi on

    Thanks a lot for this write up. Many homes are going through disequilibrium as a result of lack of good communication or communication gap. This is a food for thought for everyone one.

  16. Oluwafemi Sanumi on

    Well written Ayo,
    Only if we can listen with understanding as much as we quickly respond to issues with our two ears, many problems would have been averted.
    You nailed it and I’m more enlightened with this writeup.


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