“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”- Stephen R Covey.
Do I agree?
Yes. It’s something most of us often do without even realizing and I am no exception or at least that’s how I used to be up till a couple of years ago.
I remember, whenever any of my friends or acquaintances shared their troubles or doubts or even just genuine emotions with me, I looked them in the eye, nodding my head every now and then and as soon as they finished speaking, I started.
I told them I understand (I didn’t).
I told them the probable solution…what they could do, sometimes even how they should feel and how they should not let things affect them (I shouldn’t have).
I thought I was helping them (I hurt them more).
I thought I was being a good friend (I was wrong).
I always did this… look them in the eye, nod your head every now and then, (pretend to) listen to what they had to say… all the while thinking how should I reply, what should I say to them once they stopped speaking.
I thought I did a good job of solving other’s troubles and was actually proud of my ‘advising’ skills but what I didn’t realize was that they didn’t want my advice but just wanted someone to listen to them… someone who wasn’t so full of themselves that they took pride in how well they pretended to listen, to understand.
But as they say… what goes around, comes around. This time, it was me who needed someone to listen. I thought that since I was such a good friend, always there for others, to lend them an ear, they would do the same for me. I was right, they did the same for me and I didn’t like it a bit.
They looked me in the eye, nodded their head every now and then and paid attention but as soon as I stopped speaking… they started.
They told me they understand (they didn’t).
They told me a number of solutions, I should do this… try that… the emotions I felt were wrong… that I shouldn’t let things affect me as such (why are they acting like this?)
They thought they were helping me (they were hurting me more than my condition).
They thought they were being a good friend (they were wrong).
All I wanted to hear was a simple ‘it’s okay’, but I never told them that so why was I feeling angry at them now? What right had I to call them out when I was guilty of the same behavior? It was around that time when I finally began to reflect upon myself and came to understand a little bit about things pertaining to myself, the people around me and life in general.
- You can’t ‘understand’ something unless you have really been through it. You can try but no one can completely understand an emotion unless they experience it for themselves.
- Humans are complex creatures with equally complex brains and thus more often than not, tend to complicate a simple situation. The place where a simple ‘It’s okay’ or a light hug would suffice, we often give a speech on how others have it worse, that it’s how life is and that how ‘we’ were able to handle something like that in the past so it shouldn’t be difficult for others to do the same.
- It’s not all about you or me … no two people are same and we should really be considerate about this fact.
I know this whole article sounds a bit self-depreciating but trust me… that’s not where I am heading. I can actually write all this because I have come a long way since then. I learned from my past, from the mistakes I did, from how lightly I considered others feelings and from the anguish I felt when someone else did that to me. I tried to change even if just a little and am still trying because it’s not easy to change oneself. One needs to persevere and constantly reflect upon one’s actions. So I won’t say that I am a completely different person but I am gradually getting better. I know now that I don’t need to present solutions to someone each time they share their troubles or doubts; they don’t really need a reply, just an assurance that someone is there to listen to them or simply just there.
So I am changing but what about the others?
Believe it or not… genuine care and understanding are contagious, maybe as contagious as a genuine smile. It warms up your heart and we all know that a frozen river can’t change its course but free flowing water can. Once I realized my shortcomings, I tried to be honest to my friends and to some I even apologized for never really paying attention to their feelings…. And though at that time they told me I was stupid but it really opened a way for us to be honest with each other, to be more considerate and aware.
I noticed that when I actually started listening to them, actually paying attention not to reply but to simply hear them out… they tried to do the same and though not everything is all peaches and cream at least it’s a start.
“As I changed, the world changed too…
What more can I say… the change begins with YOU.”