Well sadly you might be right. We can all think of numerous times in our life where we have sensed that the person we are talking to is not really listening. It maybe their far away vacant stare or the fact that they keep glancing down to check their messages on their smart phone that gives it away, but the end result is still the same – you feel unappreciated and unheard.
Julian Treasure is a leading authority in the area of sound and personal communication and his research suggests that as a community we are fast losing our ability to listen to and understand one another. Listening is a mental process and relies on us developing our ability to extract meaning from what we hear. One of the reasons that Treasure ascribes to the gradual decline in our collective ability to listen, is the fact that the world we live in has become so very noisy. With a cacophony of visual and auditory stimuli bombarding our senses it can be difficult and even tiring for us to listen. The media screams at us in an attempt to get our attention and the messages projected are delivered in short sound bites that require neither prolonged focus nor genuine engagement. This means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle and the understated.
Another reason relates to our desire for self-promotion, which is becoming increasingly prevalent since the rise of social media. Personal broadcasting, where we seek out opportunities to present our thoughts, experiences and opinions rather than being open to hear from others, is slowly replacing the art of conversation. The reason why this is such a serious problem is because listening through conversation is the way through which we learn and access understanding. And as Julian Treasure states, “a world where we don’t listen to each other at all is a scary place indeed.”
So how do we regain our ability to listen to one another? I have taken up the personal challenge to actively improve my listening skills and while it has been difficult at times, it has been equally rewarding. I have tried to follow the simple acronym RASA as a reminder of what I should be doing during a conversation. RASA stands for receive, which means pay attention to the person; appreciate what the person is saying by nodding or making affirming noises or gestures; summarise what the person has said to clarify my understanding and finally – ask lots of questions. By doing this I have discovered that I am less tempted to turn the focus of the conversation towards me and instead, I have opened myself up to learning a whole lot more from the experiences of others than I would if I simply looked for the opportunity to interject with my own anecdotes.
Not surprisingly God’s word has a lot to say about this topic of listening. Throughout the Bible we read about the importance of listening to God and listening to others, while conversely we are encouraged to restrain ourselves from speaking too much and to use our words prudently. But perhaps the most helpful scripture on this topic can be found in Galatians 6:7 which tells us; “Do not be deceived…whatever a person sows, that he shall also reap.” Put simply if you want other people to listen to you the best place to start is by making the effort to listen to and appreciate others.