The Pulse

Can you listen?

Ashenafi Zedebub

The question “can you listen?” might be considered as a rather “foolish question.” It should, however, be clearly understood that this particular question is not at all meant for the hearing impaired. Prominent psychologists of our time have now and again made the emphasis on this “special subject matter.”

One researcher has even gone so far as to make his own judgment. Said he: “If you answer this question  – can you listen? – with a clear ‘YES’, I congratulate you because you belong to the best minority of our society.”

The ability to listen, as several investigators pointed out, is an art of a very high degree irrespective of profession, occupation, education, social status or whatsoever. But, much to our regret, only a few people seem to have that ability. Here we can state an example of a so-called “party – dialogue” by and between two gentlemen with somewhat serious appearances:

A –   “Hello how do you do? Haven’t seen you for a long time.”

B –  “Yes I have been to Nairobi for almost eight weeks.”

A –  “O! really? Nairobi? My cousin lived there for a long time. He was with our embassy, as counselor, I guess.”

B – No, not in Nairobi, I myself was down to the west-coast. It is incredibly an interesting country……”

A – “With Nairobi, Kenya, Oh …..   I do not have any connection. It is perhaps because of my uncle, you know! He was also a diplomat,,,,, these diplomats….  you know, originally, I wanted to go to the foreign service, but I finally ended up as a businessman……I was down there on business, but very successfully. By the way…. the people out there … oh… they are really open-minded, and to my surprise, educated…”

B – “Have you ever been to Mexico? My wife, my children and me…… oh what a trip!!!! We have been there almost three times. I mean twice…. Sometimes I forget the precise spot where to insert most and almost you know….Any way, we came back with lots of things in our bag.”

A –  “Myself, I brought something quite different, a Buddha-statue. I paid some 500 US$, here it is of course of a higher value.”

And that is the end of the so-called “dialogue.” Is it at all a dialogue? One did not listen to the other. Everyone talked of himself, trying his very best to emphasize his own importance and cleverness. With regard to the value of communications, one can just say both of them are equally zero. When I happen to show this paper to a friend of mine a long time ago, I still remember what he had to say. “The one person could just be a letter box of a fire- alarm.”  By the way, is this an exception? Not at all, but typical of our conventional tendency of self-assertion.

But where does such a thing come from? In order to get a satisfactory reply, several scholars refer to the TV or show cultures in the so-called industrialized world; and presently also in the developing countries. No scholar is against TV or show culture. They indeed belong to civilization, and thus, to the civilized community. But there are of course shortcomings. Psychologists advise “ to keep a little bit of critical consciousness.”

TV usually compels a person standing before the camera to self-assertion. Not only the professional show-star, but also the active men and women of politics, business and so on. If we take a politician for instance, if he or she never had the chance to appear on TV regularly, is very well seen and noticed. Yet, during an event of discussion, the person who talks most of the time becomes the uncontested winner. On the other hand, the one who might have thought that paying attention to others was worthwhile and who, carefully or even politely, makes an attempt to express the opinion is the looser.

According to researchers, this has become a sort of “model character.” In case a person, unknown to the public gets a chance one day to appear on the TV, he would try hard to as to have his words strongly impressed on memories of friends, relatives, etc. So, in this case talking appears to be more important than listening.

In truth, it is the vice versa. One who does not listen cannot learn anything. He will keep on chewing his knowledge – little knowledge – and bolstering his self-assertion. The presentation will be with the loss of worthwhile information which he/she could obtain from others.

As marriage counselors note, this might be of considerable significance in the matrimonial life too. As far as marriage or intimate friendship is concerned, it is not at all for the sake of information only that one should listen to the other, but indeed to place oneself into the other and to come closer in oneness.

Modern men and women of our world today complain much about the so-called solitary life. One of the main causes of this, as scholars pointed out, is due to incapability of listening. One does not listen to the other. He or she  only wants to be heard.

Some people say that certain people ore them while talking. But who is responsible for such boredom? The accuser of course.

So, can you listen? The fine art of listening has always been pushed away by the tendency of self-assertion.

I myself have learned a lot by being able to listen. What about you?

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