This, That and Other Stuff

Bob Neuman

Communication hinges on the ability to listen, then respond.

A Christmas carol asks the question, “Do you hear what I hear?” Maybe so; maybe not. There are those who think verbal conversation has gone the way of the outhouse and the buggy.

Communication is defined as the exchange of information between individuals; a verbal or written message expressing ideas effectively. However, that does not explain why communication sometimes fails.

Perhaps the receiver is unfamiliar with the topic or the vocabulary. Could be there are physical problems like poor hearing or the delivery of the speaker? Nevertheless, no communicating takes place without comprehension and there is no comprehension if there is not conscientious listening.

There are times we would rather not listen. We do not relish the neighbors’ loud arguments. Cell phone users in crowded places like restaurants or airports are difficult to ignore.

Inattention is a major cause of no communication. Consider people you know. Where would you place them in categories such as always, sometimes, or never when listening to you?

The mind may drift as an individual attempts to explain or relate topics we find boring or of no interest. We might begin to think of the roast in the crock pot for our dinner. We give him a smile now and then mutter an “uh-huh” or a nod, but we have secretly turned him off. If he continues to drone on, we can count the buttons on his shirt or wonder why he went bald until his voice fades away.

I have known a man for many years who fancies himself an expert on all topics.

First he slashes at Christian beliefs. Then he rants about politics. Now with the volume rising, he states if others don’t see things as he does, they are just stupid. Soon he is on his feet striding back and forth and flailing his arms about the immigration problems. Now he is into carving up the idiots who run social security. He continues cramming the barrage down the listener’s throat, leaving him in a stupefied condition. Because the volume is at maximum, one would find it difficult not to listen to him.

Do you know anyone like that? Better yet, are you this person?

Authentic listeners are rare and we are fortunate if we have a few. How many can you honestly count?

To confirm our words and conclusions have value, we need the response and acknowledgement of the listener. Communication is a conscious, learned skill. Monopolizing the conversation and holding one captive requires little effort and accomplishes nothing constructive.

We may not all have the same opinions, but disagreeing can be accomplished without shouting insults and attacking the character of others.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” are the words of a popular 1970s song. True enough, but the world also needs to discover the lost art of truly listening to each other.