Have you noticed how while talking to some people they look spaced out, and you get the feeling that they are not listening to a word you’re saying? They don’t even look at you when you’re talking.
I believe communication is the most important skill in life, and that dialogue is the key to all human relationships. In fact I do not believe in resolving any kind of problem through force. I am totally against war and I do believe that if we can sit and talk and listen and try to understand at least we can resolve all our problems.
To do this we have to be able not only to talk but to listen also. We spend years learning to read, write and talk. But when or how do we learn to listen, really listen and understand another human being?
I remember when I was teaching, how at the start of a new lesson, a few kids would raise their hands and complain, “but I don’t understand.” And the first thing I would tell them is to “listen, listen carefully.” On some occasions it would so happen that someone would raise his/her hand to tell me “I don’t understand” and I would say but “I didn’t explain anything yet.”
Most of the time when I have a problem that I want to talk over with some of my friends, I hold back in fear of being misunderstood. Because I know they will not listen with the intention to understand me, they will listen only with the intention to reply. They will weave everything with their own personal experiences and I will be hearing their biography instead of me talking about my problem. They will start with “Oh, I know how you feel. I went through exactly the same thing. Let me tell you about it.” Or something like, “No, you don’t know. It’s not like that because the same thing happened to me, etc.”
However, the most awful encounter is with my kids, when they tell me, “You don’t understand,” and a simple conversation with them turns into an argument. Haven’t we felt the same way with our parents at some point in our lives? Haven’t we repeated that same phrase, “my parents don’t understand me,” over and over?
The late Stephen R. Covey wrote:
A father once told me, “I can’t understand my kid. He just won’t listen to me at all.”
“Let me restate what you just said,” I replied. “You don’t understand your son because he won’t listen to you?”
“That’s right,” he replied.
“Let me try again,” I said. “You don’t understand your son because he won’t listen to you?”
“That’s what I said,” he impatiently replied.
“I thought that to understand another person, you needed to listen to him,” I suggested.
“Oh!” he said. There was a long pause. “Oh!” he said again, as the light began to dawn. “Oh, yeah! But I do understand him. I know what he’s going through. I went through the same thing myself. I guess what I don’t understand is why he won’t listen to me.”