Hearing is, of course, one of our primary senses, but I recently watched (and listened to!) a TED talk that got me thinking about the importance of how we listen. Take a look if you’d like:
It seems as though we are losing our ability to listen, and it is hurting our ability to fully comprehend and understand other people, other concepts, and other ideas.
For the past week, I’ve been observing people in conversation as much as I can and watching how many of them genuinely listen. Sadly, it is usually evident that while one person is talking, the other is more concerned with what they are going to say, or what is going on in their world, than what the person speaking is saying.
Try it out with yourself first, and you will see yourself planning what you are going to say before the person you are speaking to is done. Before you know it, you will be impatiently waiting for them to hurry up and stop talking so that you can start talking.
That, of course, is normal.
What is happening in our world and our mind is what is most important to us, but we are missing out on opportunities to connect with those around us more fully, build more meaningful relationships, and accomplish more amazing things. We can’t do any of these things if we don’t understand each other.
This past weekend, thousands of young people marched all over our country, and lots of discussions are going on around the topic of gun reform. It seems as though the most crucial component we are missing though is listening. If I take a minute to look around on my social media networks at what people think of these issues, it is crystal clear that no one is listening to anyone with a different opinion than their own. We all feel as though the only way to win is to yell our personal opinion as loudly as we possibly can.
All of the people that feel the same way as we do “like” it and “share” it. And all of the people that don’t feel the same way comment back, yelling as loudly as possible how they feel about it.
Arguing is not the problem.
Arguing can be so beneficial to solving problems and coming up with fantastic solutions. But arguing is worthless and futile when no one listens. When we listen, arguing can lead to resolutions.
Of course, it is entirely natural to believe what you think is right, but typically the answer to a lot of our problems is found somewhere in the middle and less on one side or the other.
We have to recognize that so much of what we think (and as pointed out in the video, so much of how we listen) is influenced by filters such as culture, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions. Pay attention to how you may listen to what someone says and instinctively have reactions against what they are saying sometimes before even thinking it through.
These are serious discussions that we need to be having. Which means now more than ever, if you want to accomplish things, resolve conflicts, have better relationships with everyone you encounter in life (hey, and even master your martial arts!), I encourage you to "empty your cup" and listen.