The Art of Listening

By Afraaz Mulji, 19, a multi-disciplinary artist, musician, composer, writer, philosopher and curator. He lives in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

The art of listening is a practice which is an essential aspect of the communication process. I agree that most people listen with the intent of replying rather than understanding. It is of great importance to appreciate the true skill, patience and depth of knowledge that a good listener employs in order to make the person communicating feel heard and understood.

Listening is an active process which requires the listener to actively engage with the communicator in order to acknowledge the person’s ideas and flow. Most people are not good listeners. It is a skill which is sorely undervalued in our current society. Our society encourages being the loudest voice and yelling at each other rather than encouraging and engaging in a respectful, pluralistic dialogue.

To engage in a respectful dialogue involves creating a space in which all parties feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions; a space where a person can be “heard”. To create such a space requires that all parties involved be versed in the subtle science and high art that listening is.

Listening with the intention of understanding is a practice which is essential to creating the kind of dialogue we desperately need in our divided and judgmental world. Creating a culture where the practice of listening with the intention of understanding becomes the norm requires an immense effort from everyone participating in the global conversation.

In our increasingly interconnected and globalized society, we need leaders who promote and practice listening with the intention of understating. This practice will enable us to have more fruitful dialogues and allow us to better appreciate and engage with perspectives that are not our own.

The current climate we face unfortunately promotes and even celebrates the idea of listening with the intention of replying. This creates conflict and does not allow for conflict resolution. Everybody is talking at each other and nobody’s voice is being heard and understood.

The way forward is a gradual process of educating people on the meritocratic, social and personal value of listening with the intention of understanding. It will be a difficult struggle to move towards a place where the communicator and listener have the necessary skill sets required to engage in respectful, tolerant, pluralistic dialogue.

I advocate that listening with the intention of understanding the “other” be taught from a very young age and that it be an intrinsic and invaluable part of the education of all people. This process can occur through a variety of mediums including the internet, books, and through formal education.

My personal experience has enabled me to be an excellent listener. I am a musician and curator. It is my life’s work to be an excellent listener. Indeed, I would go so far as to say, it is my most important asset. It has enabled me to respond to situations artistic, personal and social, in a manner which makes the people I am dealing with feel acknowledged and heard.

From my experience as a musician and curator, I have learned that the exchange of ideas and information can be best enabled by listening and understanding first and responding second. As an active listener, you can take an informed and educated response to whatever content you are dealing with.

Through the process of listening, we have the capacity to learn, grow and understand each other, and engage each other in an enlightened manner. It is one of my missions to encourage the art of listening with the intention of promoting understanding, pluralism and the cosmopolitan ethic. Every human being is engaged in the process of communicating, therefore, it should be an unwritten agreement, that the need to be “heard” and understood are essential to the human condition and to social wellbeing and correct protocol.

One comment on “The Art of Listening

  1. Farid Makhani on

    What a brilliant exposition on the “Art of Listening”. I throughly enjoyed reading it. The work of a brilliant young Polymath!


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