“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.