#1000 Speak For Compassion: Listening

compassion1000 Voices for Compassion is a movement that is trying to encourage compassion through blogging. Each month they choose a theme, and on the 20th  they encourage people to write about it.

This months theme is listening. It’s my first time writing anything for this, but I thought it was an interesting topic to cover at a time when there are so many distractions it’s difficult to do.

Listening

While growing up I was always picked up on the fact that I didn’t seem to talk as much as everybody else. I was subjected to this so much that it became an unwanted part of my identity that I felt I had to fix. Fast forward a few years and I’ve transformed into a bit of a chatterbox; I can’t help feeling however, that this overcompensation has come at the cost of my ability to listen. I find that good social skills are often attributed more to the ability to talk rather than to listen, but communication is a two way street. There’s little fulfilment in talking if there isn’t a willing and listening recipient on the other side. It also feels like there are more distractions than there ever have been before, making it even more challenging to give our full attention to another person. Sometimes I find myself talking at a faster pace to try and get all of my thoughts across before something happens to distract everyone.

I never learned anything while I was talking – Larry King

Listening isn’t just a case of hearing the sounds, but actively engaging with what is being said, verbally and non-verbally. If a person isn’t paying attention to us we can usually tell by the disinterested expression on their face, lack of eye contact or sluggish posture. They may even be fiddling with something in the background, interrupting or not offering appropriate responses to show they’ve understood. I’m sure that such a situation is quite common and it’s difficult to be switched on all the time, but it can still invoke negative feelings within us; At its worse it can leave me feeling annoyed or disheartened (am I not interesting enough?) The negative feelings can then continue to have an affect on the way we communicate.

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.- G.K. Chesterton

To me, one of the greatest gifts another person can give me is just to listen for a short while. It shows to me that they care, are interested about the things that matter to me and it allows me to sort my feelings out. Sometimes we just need an outlet to feel better (for women in particular, venting without interruption helps us to order our thoughts.) I feel like I share a stronger connection with people that can listen and in turn I listen to, because we learn more about each other and there are fewer misunderstandings. I’ve also found that the more I’m willing to listen the more likely another person will come to trust and open up to me.

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.- Ralph G. Nichols

Listening is a really important part of our social skill-set as it helps to reduce misunderstandings and in turn disagreements and conflict. For example, I once had an argument caused by another person’s incorrect assumption of my intention; They wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to explain myself, which in turn left me feeling exasperated and caused the situation to escalate. One of my friendships also went through a rocky patch when we failed to listen to each other’s needs and for a long time held beliefs about each other that weren’t actually true (life was so busy that we neglected to communicate clearly.) Many of the frustrations that we feel towards others are usually because we don’t have enough clarity; We may not understand them, but also expect them to understand us. Their behaviour may seem off to us at times, but there could be a reasonable explanation like perhaps they received some bad news earlier that day. Only by listening can we extend our empathy rather than frustration to others.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.- Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Listening more can also benefit ourselves. I learn quite a lot just by listening to other people talk about their passions for instance; Being around such positivity can also help to spark the feelings I have for my own passions. It can improve our self-esteem and gives us a break from having the focus on us. Many of us feel insecure in a social setting, but listening and letting others guide the conversation allows us to think less inwardly (I’ve enjoyed many social outings where I didn’t talk about myself.) As an introvert, talking a lot can also be quite tiring while sitting back to listen can help me to recuperate. In fact, there have even been studies to show that talking increases blood pressure, while listening lowers it. Listening might also help us to strengthen the bonds we feel with others andof course it’s important to ensure we don’t miss anything important.

I care about who you are, who you have been, who you want to be. I open myself to you to listen and learn about you. I cherish you, not just my fantasy of who you are, not just who I need you to be, but who you really are… – Betty Berzon

Another way to consider this topic is also being able to listen to ourselves. Many of us learn to tune out our thoughts or feelings for various reasons, but they are there to inform us as to what makes us happy or what might be amiss. As well as showing compassion to others it’s important to be compassionate to ourselves. A happier us is also a benefit to the people in our lives.

Nothing changes until people decide to do the things they must, in order to bring about peace.- Shannon L. Alder

Listening is a crucial part of connecting with others as it enables better understanding. It allows us to know how the people in our lives feel and may also offer hints as to how we can make things better for them. Sometimes, just the act of listening is enough to break someone out of a bad place or to show that we care – this might only require a few minutes of our time, but makes a big difference to their day. In an age full of distractions a willing listener is definitely a person I treasure, and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to give to the people I love. To listen is the difference between interacting with or acting upon the world around us; It allows us to fully engage with ourselves and others.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

2 responses to “#1000 Speak For Compassion: Listening”

  1. Louise says :

    I really like the Stephen Covey quote – so very true that many listen so they can reply, not for understanding. You end up having two one sided conversations together. What’s the point of that?

    And agree with the challenge with increases in distractions. I really need to work now, more than before to simply focus – and take the time to do so.

    • wallcat says :

      That’s what I realized recently; it’s pointless talking if it’s not being received in any way. That was one of my favourite quotes too and opened my eyes to my own behaviour. I’ve become more aware of how well I’m listening now. I do admittedly struggle to focus at times.

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