“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we much have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.”
Alice Miller, Polish Psychologist and World Renowned Author
The study of language begins before we utter a single word. We learn to speak by listening. It is the first step in our education.
We relied on others to give us our voice. And from that moment, we were well on our way to expressing and articulating our needs and desires. Sometimes with strident persistence and at other times, with calm assurance or anxious concern.
Time serves as a formidable obstacle. With only so many hours in a day and a fixed supply of energy, we are limited by our finite existence. This is when we must be selective and chose those conversations that inspire and challenge us to live bold lives. Listen to hear the heartbeat of the universe.
“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
“Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen.”
Ambrose Bierce – Editor, Journalist, Writer
A few years ago, I watched a self-help video on how to “network’ a room and become an “influencer.” By following a few simple steps, I could be someone others would consider worthy of befriending. There were 10 tips, all of which I have forgotten, except for the first one. If you want people to listen to your ideas, don’t be boring. Our greatest fear appears to be that of looking dull and tiresome. We go to great lengths to be interesting and attract attention, whether through our appearance and dress, our professional titles, or through witty dialogue. In effect, we strive to be entertainers. Yet, there is an elegantly simple truism.
The listener is generally the most popular person in any crowd.
“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.”
Wilson Mizner – Playwright, Raconteur, and Entrepreneur.
“Just because I didn’t do what you told me, doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening to you!”
Hank Ketcham, American cartoonist who created Dennis the Menace
We think that when people listen, they agree. When someone nods in understanding, we assume it means consensus. We may prefer harmony in our dialogues for it brings a sensation of well-being, but disagreements are the genesis of transformations.
Listening doesn’t mean you agree.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
“One learns more from listening than speaking. And both the wind and the people who continue to live close to nature still have much to tell us which we cannot hear within university walls.”
When I was a teenager, I read the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition at one sitting, finishing in the early hours of the morning.
It has been over 60 years since a remarkable team of 6 explorers, led by the adventure-seeking Thor Heyerdahl set up to prove that is was possible for a primitive raft made from balsa wood and other native materials to safely sail the Pacific. Inspired by the legends and Inca raft drawings from the days of the Conquistadors, they set sail for 101 day covering, 4300 nautical mile (4,948 miles/7,964 kilometers). They successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Tuamotu Islands.
Thor Heyerdahl listened to the accounts of history, the crafts-people who knew how to build rafts, his fellow adventurers and to the sounds of nature. Listening gave him another narrative to tell the world. And the world listened. The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Sea has been translated in 67 languages.
This week, the focus will be listening. Most agree that it is a skill that takes practice and patience. Most agree that there are rewards for nurturing the talent. Yet, it seems that we prefer to talk. There are more courses on developing speaking skills than there are on strengthening listening capacity. Bryant H McGill, editor of the world-renown McGill Reference Series, once said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
Respect is the basis for dialogue, conversations, and debates. There are many voices in this world that need to be heard. Who is listening?
A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.”
William G.T. Shedd
It is easy to talk about courage when the sun is shining and you are surrounded by a support network that strengthens your resolve. In fact, courage is often masked by “group think.” We feel security within community. At times, it is easier to stop asking questions, to accept conventional wisdom, and to forget to exercise our minds altogether. Yet, we are at our best when we embrace the adventure and chose courage as our steady and secure companion.
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.”
A dialogue on courage would be incomplete without Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.” On April 23, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech entitled, “Citizenship in a Republic,” at the Sorbonne, Paris. Thirty-five pages long, the unforgettable passage is found on the seventh page.
Many years later, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of this speech to François Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (As a point of interest, in the film based on those events, the poem Invictus is used instead.)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
26Th President of the United States