I have this vague memory of my auntie telling me she was gonna come back for me the moment she was done paying my school fees. I was carried by my teacher, I could see my auntie leave the school. I cried so loud. That was my first day at school. I know you’ll say I’m lying but I really do have a vague picture of it in my mind.
You’re asking yourself, why this story about your first day at school. I want to highlight the basic things that school teaches us the very moment we begin schooling. School teaches us how to read, write, speak but not how to listen. I know you’ll say ah but that’s how we learn? we are made to sit for 8 hours just listening to our teachers but that’s where you’re wrong.
We are made to listen in order to remember what we learn. We are also made to listen to acquire knowledge. We are not taught how to listen to another human being in order to understand them deeply. We are taught to speak politely. We are even taught to shut up when an elderly person is speaking but does that mean we’re really listening? We are taught to read (that’s a form of listening, but in this case the speaker is not there so we have no option).
The listening test
Here is a short test to assess your listening skill.
- Have you ever listened to someone during an argument that you changed your way of thinking about the matter? If yes, great! If no, do you mean to say that you are never wrong?
- Have you ever had a discussion where you had so much advice to give that you felt you were bursting but you kept quiet and tried to understand the other person?
- You’re discussing something with a team mate, instead of preparing what to say next you decide to listen to what he/she is saying, not for faults but to understand. Have you ever done that?
- Have you ever listened to someone younger or less experienced than yourself and felt wow thanks, I’ve learnt something from you. Have you? Or you always have an opinion about something?
Let’s pause here…
Think about it. Do you listen at all? The world is so full of noise that, listening transcends the act of just hearing and picking information from what is being said.
Listen beyond the words
People say things they don’t mean, people mean the things that are unspoken. Listen with your ears, eyes, heart. Try to get the motive behind what the person is saying. Don’t be quick to advice without thoroughly listening to the other party. Don’t be quick to conclude without really looking at things from the person’s point of view.
Sam, no example today?
I know you’re wondering why I haven’t told a story of how I listened to someone blah blah blah… haha. Here it comes.
So I was just relaxing on a Saturday morning. Disconnected from the Internet and just having an alone time. Then I had a call from my boss. He was upset at me and I had no idea what in particular I’d done. He complained so much about how I’m not being serious about the current project and a task we had to complete before Monday (and even work as a whole) and concluded by saying “if you won’t do it, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it myself”. I came online and it continued. I received quite a lecture. But I was so calm that morning I just didn’t take things the way they appeared. I played back everything that had happened that morning in my head. Then I realized he wasn’t upset with me, he was frustrated. He had so much to do and was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish up what I had to do. I felt sorry for him instead of being angry (Don’t think I don’t get angry, I have my bad days and bad side you know). In the end, I had to meet up with a colleague at work (yes on a Saturday) to work together. My boss came around. On his way to the office we were chatting and he said: I hope you’ll come around so we finish this thing. Please try and come I’ll settle you guys 😉 Then I told him I was already there, then he said “did you fly”. He was surprised and happy. He’d calmed down. He got us a nice lunch and we finished up what we had to do by God’s grace.
People may not always mean what they say. Always listen for a deeper understanding. Listen beyond the words.