Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Listening

“Emily Dickinson wrote that success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed. And so too, youth is counted sweetest by those who are no longer young. Nostalgia is inevitably a yearning for a past that never existed.” - John Green

But if we think it existed, what then? (See An Abundance of Katherines)

Anyways. In relation to me, Script Frenzy is now going to be re-named Do Review Packets For AP Chemistry Frenzy. Instead of writing 4-ish pages of dialogue per day...I get to do 3-ish pages of that. Every day. Fun times.

So today I was thinking about listening, because I have been told that I'm a good listener, and I was wondering exactly what that meant, since it clearly means more than that my ears work well.

"Listening" is generally defined as using your ears to receive and interpret sound waves.
Well, by that definition, the following scenario counts as listening:

Person 1: "(is talking)"
Person 2: "Mhm. Yeah. No. Cool."
Person 1: "Are you even listening to me?"
Person 2: "Of course I am. And I even have a vague impression of what you're talking about."

I've protested that definition myself: "You're listening to me, but you aren't hearing me," meaning that my words are going in one ear and out the other.

And that's not "good listening" either.

So here's what I think good listening is, and it doesn't have to be through sound: Paying attention to what the person speaking is saying, and not only paying attention, but also remembering it. Which sort of ties back to the quote at the start of the post-- if you don't remember something, it didn't happen. So listen to people, or else their words will have been in vain. Not only does this mean you're being a good person, I think, but it also means a heck of a lot to the person speaking when you remember whatever it was when it comes up again in conversation. We humans like to feel that we and our experiences matter to others. We like to feel loved.

Then again, we also need to forgive people when they forget things...but that's another post entirely and kind of defeats the purpose of this one, so...

**steps off soapbox with grace and poise**

(What's a soapbox?)


  1. It just so happens that I was/am going to mention AAoK in reference to your last post, small world. Anyway, I think I would use listen and hear is sort of the opposite way you use them here. You hear everything that beats your eardrum (or however that works), but you only listen to that which attention is paid. Sort of the difference between seeing and watching or looking at.

    Anyway, I think everything from the last big paragraph is completely wonderful! Not that I didn't like the rest, I just thought that bit was spot on to something important. I am not sure how forgiveness defeats the purpose of this post though?

  2. About hearing vs. listening-- that occurred to me while I was writing it, but didn't bother to change it.
    Forgiveness would somewhat defeat the point because if forgiveness is emphasized too much, I think there'd be less effort placed on listening well, because there wouldn't be as much worry about it. (That's an extreme, of course.)

  3. I'm not sure that I think we should want to connect to other people for fear that they won't forgive us if we don't. I think we ought connect to other people because that is the human thing to do. Just because I believe that a friend will forgive me if I wrong them, doesn't make me feel any less wary of doing so.

  4. Yes. (I'm just rather cynical about humanity on occasion)


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