They say listening is the other half of talking. If people stop listening, it is useless to talk—a point not always appreciated by talkers. Most of us aren’t good listeners. In general, we talk more than we listen. Flamboyance in our society puts a premium on self-expression, even if the individual has nothing to express. What we lack in knowledge, we try to make up by sheer talking. Many of us, while ostensibly listening, are inwardly preparing a statement to stun the audience when we get the floor. Yet, it really isn’t difficult to learn to listen though it may seem unusual.
Listening is regarded passive. But it can be an active process: something to challenge our thought system. A stream of messages coming in to be decoded; how close can we come to their real meanings? What are speakers trying to say? How do they know it? What has been left out? What is the motive? A barrage of queries contests our mental reception. It becomes a constructive exercise.
To make sure we grasp the speakers’ complete meaning, critical listening is a pre-requisite. In a world full of propaganda, fake news, and high-pressure advertising, it is badly needed. Looking for motives behind the words and speeches, which are often solidly larded with symbols and meant to avoid the need for thought, is the best way to decode the real message. The patient hearing can identify them a long way off. Moreover, whether speakers are dealing in facts or inferences, can be found to make a distinction in political and economic talk, and follow the shifts from one level to the next.
Another communication is about Inner Voice—listening to it is yet another big deal. Our conscience is actually never dead. It is always awake to the goings-on. It is addressing us all the time, but we deny listening. The voice that emanates from our deep chords, cuts through the maze of multiple thoughts occupying our mind and fades out somewhere in the isolated corner of our daily existence. We deliberately ignore it for if we take notice, we will never again dare to see our face in mirror. We kill this voice brutally to hide our guilt. We pretend wisdom and knack to outside world and take pride in cheating ourselves and, of course, others. If only we can listen to ourselves!
At times, don’t we behave as skilled ‘deaf actors’ who see and smell everything but virtually listen to nothing around or in us? We do, certainly. Especially in the midst of exaggeration and falsity. We see pain and sorrow but we don’t listen to its true throbbing. We don’t listen to agonizing sighs and sobs though we acknowledge understanding them. We don’t listen to trickling innocent tears though we find water in eyes. We catch sight of flames but we never ever listen to their cindering catastrophes. We spot death almost every day but we don’t heed to its terrible lesson. It speaks to us a great deal, but again we turn down listening.
How much do we miss out, intentionally or otherwise? We miss listening to meaningful music from the Nature. The chirping birds; running rivers; flowing waterfalls; floating clouds; blowing winds; cascading rains; buzzing bees; rustling trees; and bleating animals—we sadly prove hard of hearing! Nature scoffs at our ‘selective’ impaired listening. ‘Selective’ because we are not bad at listening to noise, gossip and grapevine. We are awfully nice in keeping our ears open to all that is jarring and spicy, has no substance and carries unfounded cynicism or slander. We carefully and devotedly listen to all kinds of rasping “stories”— kitchen stories; cabinet stories; office stories; market stories; ider ki stories; uder ki stories…..blah, blah, blah. And then, transmitting the same with added mirch-masala becomes our foremost duty as ‘honest’ listeners. Wonder how much precious time we squander over such ‘outstanding endeavor’!
Bottomline: What we do is essentially refusing hearing to what occurs within us. We beat and we don’t hear the lashes. We humiliate but we don’t hear the slaps. We ploy but we don’t hear the wailing of justice. We rip off but we don’t hear the mourning of trust. We give up but we don’t hear the last dying cry. Thus, we don’t even listen to the sounds of our mute silences, not to speak of listening to anything else!