An adage a day-“If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.” — Turkish Proverb

A young friend the other day. She said, ‘Chechi, you are always busy. When do you call me? Remember I am the one who calls you every time’.

I replied instantly, ‘You know what, I am stuck usually, just work, home or other tensions’.

I realized the duplicity of my answer, the moment I recollected that I was talking to a young woman who had battled breast cancer and come out victoriously. Someone who is the mother of a special child who went on to get training in special education and is now a successful teacher. In fact she has been promoted to teach higher classes despite her reluctance.

I instantly regretted my response and my attitude but perhaps I did not learn much because later in the evening when my mom called me and shared happily, ‘ I did Shraddom, today you know, for grand mother’, my absent minded response was a mere ‘huuum’.

Mom shared this with so much enthusiasm considering the special times we are in. For more than 2 decades she has been the spear heading force at her home among her brothers and sisters in paying this annual tribute to her parents. She took pride in that and my dad supports her whole- heartedly.

This year, the fact that she could not travel to her home in Thrissur must have hurt her. Yet, she was happy to have done her duty. I was quite a moron to have shown such disinterest to her story of achievement, I realized soon.

My perceived self victim hood does stand in the way of my empathy. I learnt it yesterday. I have decided to listen to what mom has to say every day with full attention hereafter.

But why is listening so difficult?

*Preoccupations

My daughter hates it when I try to read or look at my phone while ‘listening’ to her. ‘Keep it down’, she says and rightly so. A reprimand does help in being more empathetic.

Rarely are we able to be in the present. We are often and on, trying to plan ahead or live in regret of a past moment, either ways we miss out on the present. This does impact our communication and thereby our relationship with others.

*Perceived state of being busy

Being busy is definitely a state of self-deception. How much does a child, a partner, a student ,a teacher or a friend want to have that total undivided attention. How rarely are we able to do that, listen, just listen to someone who wants to pour out his/her heart to you?

Perhaps that is what we need to resurrect, those small groups of chit chat where neighbors gathered and shared stories or had those long walks together which were not pretentious but simple and unassuming.

Except for my cat Andrew who is a permanent resident in the ‘present moment’, I really don’t know many people who are capable of listening without parallell-y working their minds on different things. It must be a scourge of our times.

Lately though I have become better at listening but definitely I need to practice more.

Some pointers to active listening:

*Switch off or put your mobile on silent mode

As soon as you get ready to listen or be given a chance to be part of a shared story, stay off the gadgets.

*Paraphrase what you heard for better understanding

In case you did not follow something prompt the other person by repeating what you heard, that will help him/her to share his/her thoughts with interest.

*The importance of hmmm….

In conversation meaningless sounds/syllables like ha, hmmm etc can help create a positive ambiance. Yeah, do check if the other person has gone to sleep with a pinch or a startle- in between maybe!

*Wandering mind

Minds that wander are a difficulty, mine being one over long conversations especially.

I guess empathy and a certain sincerity helps here.

Well, listening does and will continue to save a lot of our friends from giving up. It will uplift and elevate the mood.

A willing listener who is also non-judgmental, now that is winner surely!

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