Who is Listening?



“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.”

Thor Heyerdahl

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?