It’s no secret that there is a lot of anger in the world right now. There are many causes of anger: lack of education, hunger, not enough sleep, misinformation designed to elicit hate, lack of opportunity, and others. I’m specifically going to write about one possible cause of today’s societal anger; no one is listening anymore.
Perhaps that’s too hyperbolic, yet when a person does not believe they’ve been heard they will feel frustrated. If the situation persists they will likely begin to feel angry. I know I do. And when groups of people feel their concerns are not being heard we get societal level issues; global issues. Angry people make angry choices. That’s how wars start.
We are a communicative species. The acquisition of language had a huge impact on human brain development. But, to be communicative one also needs to listen. It’s a small thing, but if we listen more I think the world’s anger may be reduced. I’m not saying that the mere act of listening will solve every problem. However, without listening you can’t even start work on any solution. The only way we’ll understand the position of the other is by actually hearing their side of the issue. But listening isn’t just about hearing what others are saying. It’s also about being in the moment. Being aware of your surroundings.
I recently went to one of my daughters’ end of school year talent show. As I sat there, listening to the performers, some of which were talented and some of which were not, I started to get embarrassed for those performers who struggled. I felt uncomfortable. I started to tune out. I came to an understanding, an epiphany, if you will. These kids had worked hard for this moment, the very least I could do was listen; to be there. I didn’t necessarily have to like or enjoy it. I didn’t have to agree with it. I just had to listen; validate their efforts with my ears. That change in mindset made the show better because I appreciated their hard work and effort. Isn’t that what anyone would want? Their hard work recognized.
My New Year’s Resolution is to try and listen more. Sometimes that’s difficult, especially if my attention is elsewhere, or I’m tired, or I’m a little bored with the conversation. I’m going to try to listen intently, actively, and engage with the speaker. I’m going to try to listen, knowing that what the other person is saying is important to them.
Now sometimes people do say ridiculous things with no other purpose other than to be funny or weird. I say this because, I am one of those people. Just look at my Wallis and Willard stories (more to come for them BTW).
My idiotic utterances are well known to those who know me well. About 4 months into dating my girlfriend my mother picked me up from university to bring me home. On the drive she got quiet and eventually asked, “Does your girlfriend know that what comes out of here is garbage?” She pointed to her mouth.
“Yes,” I replied. I was in 3rd year university. My girlfriend and I have since been married for almost 19 years. And she’ll be the first to attest that I still need to work on listening.
Listening is actually more than half of good communicating, because by listening you not only hear what the other person is saying, you are also reinforcing a connection with them as well. It’s the human connection that feels lost in today’s shuffle.
Here’s to listening, and connecting, more in 2020.