The paradox of our time

By Caroline Irungu. Caroline, 23, is a hospitality and tourism student at Pwani University, Nakuru, Kenya. Please read her essay and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Remember that one time you were talking to someone and all along this person was either just scrolling through their phone or constantly interrupting you because something you said ‘just reminded’ them of something else? Or when something upsets you and you are telling your friend about it, but even before you are done, they interrupt you to tell you about how they are more upset than you are. Most of us are guilty of such behaviour and if you are anything like me I bet you must have felt hurt and diminished.

I for one totally agree with Steve R. Covey’s thoughts that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Being an educator and a keynote speaker, I presume he had the opportunity to interact with many people who had diverse characteristics. For him to one day sit down and come to this conclusion, I can only imagine what he had experienced during his time interacting with people.

This challenge has been there though it has now become more profound with our generation which is ironic considering the globalization of the world through technology, in particular, the internet. Today, it is possible to hold a conversation with a person who is miles away from you through online chat forums like Facebook and Whatsapp. People are indeed making use of these apps to connect with others who share similar opinions as them and to share their thoughts. A report shared by CNet news in May 2018 showed that over 65 billion messages are being sent on a daily basis via Whatsapp.

Take a moment and ask yourself, does this trend continue past the laptop or mobile screens? Are people really in touch with their reality? Truth of the matter is that they are not. Take for instance we take away online communication, how many people will actually be able to start and sustain a meaningful conversation with someone else face to face?

Dalai Lama the 14th once said that we live at a time when we have more convenience but less time; been all the way to the moon and back but people are having trouble holding conversation

with someone seated next to them on a bus; a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room.

We are so used to the hustle and noise in our environments, both the online environment and the physical environment, and the challenge of having to prove ourselves to people that we have actually forgotten how to embrace the moment and appreciate silence. It is perhaps for this reason that we are unable to remove all filters and purpose to listen to understand.

The report by CNet news shows impressive numbers and it is nice to know that people are in touch with each other. However, another research conducted on 20,000 Americans early 2018 reported that half of the population reported to feel lonely and left out with the other half felt that their relationships were not meaningful. People have become so preoccupied with themselves to even care to listen to what others have to say. Those who listen usually listen with the intent to respond. They are usually all along actively mentally formulating a response more often than not meant to reject someone else’s point of view.

Needless to say, we live at a time were people are so full of themselves and as such it is easier for a person to build up their own virtues than to receive another’s; to speak up their own thoughts rather than to take time and learn from the thoughts of others. It is sad because this is the very aspect that is eating up into the whole purpose of humanity; to commune with one another because when people fail to listen, communion is embittered.

To propound on what the Bible says about this matter, in Proverbs 18:2; it is only a fool who takes no pleasure in understanding but only expressing his opinion and thus gives an answer before he even hears. Think of it this way, when you speak, you are only repeating what you already know; if you are wise enough, you would pay close attention and listen to what others have to say and chances are that you will learn something new.

Diogenes Laertius said that we have two ears and one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less. The thing about being a good listener is that you allow people to exist and to matter unlike when you do not pay attention to them because with the gift of listening comes the gift of healing.

Is it not amazing that human beings are able to come up with really complex inventions or innovations but find it hard to pay attention to one another? I think it is about time that people started to rethink about their morals and try and reunite with the virtues that actually make them humane. Take a moment and think about the consequences of a misplaced opinion. Think about how the world would be a better place if we all endeavored to pay close attention to others, if we became more empathetic or if we just purposed to interact with people on a deeper level so as to really understand where they are coming from with their point of view.

I do not know about you but I for one know that there are certain things that have happened to me that I could have avoided if only I listened carefully to understand the message that was being passed across, rather than listening selectively to only grasp the things that would work in my favour at that moment.

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