Saturdays With Shivani – Are You REALLY Listening When You Are?
We are back in Hong Kong as most of you would know and since schools here have started, we dived straight into routine and the discipline it needs. In the given times that is a blessing in disguise as most would agree. That also means I have a bubbly twelve-year-old coming back from school brimming with stuff she can’t wait to share. When I look at her bright eyes and hear her non-stop chatter I am filled with gratitude and the pain of leaving my loved ones back in India becomes slightly easier to manage.
Today’s thoughts are inspired from one such sessions with the daughter when I opened the door to be asked, “Amma do you know what makes a good listener?” Since she continues without waiting for my answer, I think she assumes Amma doesn’t.
“Mr. H asked us to make pairs so one would talk for a minute and the other listen and since I am always talking, I thought I’ll be the listener.” Hallelujah, I mutter to myself and nod my approval, not that she’s really looking for it.
“Mr. H told us that listening not only means receiving the information but also to understand it first and then to evaluate and be able to recall and summarize it. Only when all of this is done with, that the listener should respond.”
“Did you manage to do all of that?” I have to ask considering her impatience and the confidence on the maternal genes she has inherited.
“Since it was a task, I managed. Let me tell you Amma, it isn’t easy,” she pontificated. I waited. There’s always more that follows and I wasn’t disappointed.
“I think I need to work on my listening because Mr. H says that you cannot have a fruitful conversation unless you listen.” God bless Mr. H. He has managed to accomplish in a day what a mum couldn’t in a decade.
Now the question I dreaded, “Amma how would you rate yourself as a good listener? Be honest.”
I paused and reflected to imbibe the newly learnt lessons and replied, “I think I do well in the receiving and remembering departments. I summarize passably, flounder at times in evaluation and rush with the response.” There… I admitted it and felt better already. Note to self: Honesty can be cruel but it is liberating.
“That’s ok Amma. We shall get better if we practice,” said my girl as she patted my back in empathy and went on to tell me about the rest of her day. (She made me recount all of it when she was done!)
She moved on with her day and I thought what a precious lesson she has picked up today. I hope she practices it hard enough so that before she outgrows the concept, it becomes second nature to her.
Making conversations may be difficult but listening is tougher. How often do we skip the steps and are tempted to respond? If only we paused to recall, summarize and evaluate, we would know HOW to respond.
It takes courage and self-restraint to hold back and allow the person to speak. Sometimes all one wants is to be heard. Not just that, I am sure that all of us have picked up a thing or two when we chose to listen.
I know it isn’t going to be easy but I intend to imbibe this lesson. As I leave you in contemplation, I can’t resist sharing what Winston Churchill said- Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. I wonder was he speaking from experience?