Shouting in protest is usually the result of someone stating their objections or attempting to address an issue in a rational manner, but having those efforts met with indifference or knee-jerk rejection. In other cases, people say things that are indications that they are hurting, that they are confronted by external forces or internal demons, but their audience is dismissive or too focused on trying to provide their one-up “well I have problems, too” response to pick up on the speaker’s pain.
Author Bryant McGill, a past Nobel Peace Prize nominee, once said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Stephen Covey, the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has rightfully espoused, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Listening is an art that erodes daily it seems. Covey’s take is especially accurate – people listen not for the content of the speaker’s message, but for a chance to jump in and swallow the spotlight. Another issue is not listening to the message at all, instead focusing on the construction of objections to prove that the speaker is completely off-base. In our highly politicized climate, truly hearing what the other side believes, where its concerns are and what it hopes to accomplish is rare at best. This has given rise to ideologically driven media outlets that slap a rubber stamp on people’s preconceived notions of how they see the world or how they want it to be.
Compounding that issue is those media outlets’ tactic of selectively choosing facts to support the messages they are promoting. But that is an argument for another day.
The problem may be that listening requires selflessness. It requires people to put the thoughts of others before their own, if only for a span long enough to try to comprehend where they are coming from. Others likely have their own theories, but mine is that the art of listening began its decline when CNN launched “Crossfire,” a political dialogue show that had almost no dialogue and a lot of diatribe. While the talking heads representing the left and right sides of the political spectrum changed through the years, the shouting never stopped and it could be argued that even though the show was canceled in 2005 it continues today.
The lack of listening extends well beyond the political sphere. We all need to improve our listening to pick up on indicators that show those we know and love need help. Typically these people are reluctant to be overt about their situations because they don’t want to be a burden to others. In many cases, the burden they carry they cannot bear alone. Sometimes they just need someone to hear them out, to offer consolation or meaningful advice; other times, their words raise flags that professional help is needed. But it all starts with truly listening to what they have to say and why they are saying it.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know,” the Dalai Lama has said. “But when you listen, you may learn something new.” You also can make a difference.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.