In a world where self-interest precedes everything else, where intolerance has become an acceptable value, the art of listening is fast fading into oblivion.
Speaking and Listening are two sides of the same coin. Both form an integral part in the process of communication. Communication involves speaking and listening simultaneously. However, there is a fine distinction between the two processes of speaking and listening. The process of speaking necessarily involves repetition and reinforcement of what you already know, it remains a process which barely adds to the existing knowledge of the speaker. On the other hand, the process of listening results in the acquisition of new knowledge. The more you listen, the more knowledge you gain.
Steven R. Covey rightly points out that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This is what ails modern communication between individuals, communities as well as countries. People tend to harbour the false belief that they know everything about everything, that whatever they speak is the ultimate truth, and that listening and acknowledging others’ point of view will hurt their ego. By adopting such an attitude, such people shut the doors to potential knowledge that might flow from others and lose out on opportunities to grow.
In the light of fierce competition that characterizes the world of today, dialogue has given way to intense arguments, conversation has given way to debates. People no longer indulge in the art of listening to gain something but are always on the lookout for points that can help them pin down their opponent and give them a sense of achievement and victory. However, by not opening up their ears and being receptive to various opinions, they come out as losers and remain oblivious to newer perspectives.
The problem, today, is that people prefer to live in their own comfortable cocoons and avoid things that challenge them. Nobody seems to have the time to listen intently to someone. To add to this, the growing culture of intolerance and taking offence easily that we see around us ensures that we listen only to refute or reply rather than understand.
The art of listening, as a medium to gain knowledge and perspective, should, thus, be resuscitated.
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