Posted on | May 16, 2013 | No Comments
It is easy to jump to the conclusion that nobody is listening.
‘No response’ can be interpreted in a variety of ways, after all. That no one is listening is perhaps the easiest conclusion to reach but it can be far from the truth. It depends largely on the circumstances of the listener and the media options available for providing feedback.
There is also the matter of motivation. Why should anyone want to go to the trouble of responding to what you have said publicly? Unless the listener is outraged there is possibly not sufficient motivation to make it worthwhile especially in today’s over-driven world.
There is also the fear factor. Radio broadcasts to China during the days of the Cultural Revolution were often criticised for being a waste of time . The inference was that no one was listening, because no response came back, except for a few letters each year. That lasted for ten years! But events after 1978 told another story and 1979 saw a bumper crop of letters every month.
No response, however, may imply that you are being listened to – and observed – but without comment. People living in a climate of fear or control have learned to not give away their inner feelings and express themselves openly. Talk Radio takes a long time to get going in countries that have emerged from tight authoritarian rule. People are afraid to say what they think for fear of being cut down.
On the other hand, no response may simply mean nobody listens any more… Maybe they never did… In which case we just need to face that harsh reality and bite the bullet. The good news is that, whatever the other reasons, here is one explanation that we are fully responsible for and can do something about. Perhaps a little research can help…?
Posted on | April 21, 2013 | No Comments
Isn’t it strange how we tend to expect much more of others than we do of ourselves…?
In this forum I am thinking here particularly in the context of listening, of course. The implication is that we may expect others to listen to us, to our ideas, our problems, our life experiences – but we don’t expect to give equal time to listening to those of others. No doubt another symptom of our self-centredness….
Let’s face it, listening does not come easy… It takes effort and discipline. It also suggests that we show respect to the person talking. If we do not listen then the speaker also has to shoulder some of the responsibility. Clear, interesting communication is compelling – and that is all the more important in today’s information-laden world where competing messages vie for attention.
Perhaps we need a change of attitude or a change of heart. We may need to reassess the value of interpersonal communication. I often think of that when I ride on planes and observe passengers locked into their own private world as they absorb movies, videos and other media offerings via their eyes and headphones. Under these circumstances finding a live human being to engage in conversation is often a luxury – providing they have something to say, of course!
The point is that people are important. Communication between individuals is all part of being human in a de-personalised world. No doubt as we listen to others they in turn will want to listen to us, too.
And if we find that people do listen to us we owe it to them to hear their stories and problems too. Perhaps it is only listening that we have something meaningful to say?
Posted on | January 15, 2013 | No Comments
What to say is one thing – but where to say it is quite another. In the days of the physical market place it may have been a lot easier.
Or you could put ads in the newspapers or on the radio or TV. Even that was relatively simple, but it required a degree of background knowledge to speak to the right audience.
Today, thanks to new technologies and especially the Internet and mobile phones, the job of selecting the most appropriate channels is increasingly complex. The fact that it is constantly changing does not help.
This raises a whole host of issues. If we ask “Is anybody listening?” how can we be sure? We might even be saying all the right things – and saying them in an appealing format – but in the wrong place.
Happily there are some principles we can appeal to that will help us stay focused and attract an audience.
- Go where they are to find out what their marketplace is
- Stay close to the listener – to understand their needs and interests and the current fads
- Do your research well – and don’t rely on guesswork
- Face up to the facts – don’t deny them! If research shows you have no listeners it is probably true!
- Multi-channel and cross-plug. Don’t pin all your hopes on one medium but get them to play off each other
Posted on | December 14, 2012 | No Comments
News has just broken of the horrendous elementary school shooting in Connecticut. Too often have we seen this kind of senseless tragedy where schools have provided the backdrop. This time there were twenty 5-10 year-old children among the 26 dead. The lone gunman had reportedly also killed his parents, first his father at home and then his mother, a teacher at the Sandy Hook Elementary school. The children killed were those in her class.
It raises once again so many serious questions, not least on the topic of gun control. Perhaps more searching is the question “why?” What would prompt a 24- year-old to perpetrate such an unfeeling crime? We don’t know enough at this point to reach any conclusions.
In similar instances we often find that the gunmen have been loners, angry people, perhaps bullied. By taking such drastic action they are trying to make a statement. They want to be heard.
If only they had been heard sooner….
Posted on | October 8, 2012 | No Comments
Telling our stories is very much in vogue these days – and it has never been easier. I have been writing up some of my “adventures” for a few years already – spurred on by those who keep saying to me “Why don’t you write a book?” A blog seems a good place to start. Besides, if I wait too long, I shall begin to lose much of the detail with the passage of time.
Here in UK the BBC has also been running a very interesting enterprise known as The Listening Project. Apparently it is patterned after StoryCorps in the USA. This week they have been promoting it again. Their by-line is quite catchy: It’s surprising what you hear when you listen...
That struck me. It is also right in line with what this blog is all about – the need for better listening. Beyond that , too, to examine if people really are listening – and if not why not?
The central idea of the Listening Project is that two people get together to talk and tell their stories – any kind of stories. And they record their stories and send them in to the BBC for their archives. The idea is that it builds a more composite picture of what makes British people tick. What problems and challenges they face, what their disagreements, their victories, their secrets – in fact anything they want to. It reminds me of the highly-rated book by American journalist Studs Terkel called “Working” in which people talk about their jobs, what they do all day and how they feel about it (back then in the early 1970s). An interesting snapshot in time. Today those stories would possibly sound a lot different.
Perhaps it is hardly surprising that people like to hear other people’s stories – ordinary people just like them, talking about ordinary things that we can identify with. It is good therapy for all of us just to take time to listen.
Oh, and if you want to read any of my stories you can find them at I-TalesOnline.com
Posted on | September 28, 2012 | No Comments
The news in UK this past week has spent a lot of time covering two stories – one about top-flight footballer John Terry and the other concerning senior politician Andrew Mitchell. Both stories focused on what they claim they said against accusations based on what people say they heard.
In theory these should both be one and the same.
This opens up some very fascinating discussion. It reminds me of what has been described as the six dimensions of interpersonal communication:
- What I want to say
- What I say
- What I think I said
- What you want to hear
- What you hear
- What you think you heard
The key question is then posed: Which of these six is the most important?
We could debate the answers for a long time – and people can defend them with good justification. But ultimately the arguable conclusion is the last one – What you think you heard. The underlying reason for this is that this what stays with the recipient and will shape their opinions, their recollection and ultimate actions. That is the bottom line – and nothing else matters to the same extent.
This means that if damage was done then damage will remain, no matter how much we may want to argue the case – whether footballer or politician.
Sadly, in our imperfect world, the recipient may have heard wrongly. I have never forgotten being accused (by an older family member) of once saying something (a swear word!) which I know I did not say – the person sadly mis-heard. That hurt… and I resented it. I have also never forgotten it.
But it does reveal once again how important words are – and how careful we need to be in choosing them. They are our responsibility. The Bible also reminds us that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks…
Our words reveal who we are.
Posted on | August 5, 2012 | No Comments
The roar of the Olympic crowds has been deafening. Competing on home turf has meant enormous support for home athletes, teams and crews.
It has also given them a significant advantage Rowing crews described the impact as being like that of having an extra person in the boat as they approached the final strait. The cheers of support in the cycling velodrome made the whole place vibrate – almost to the point of pain…
Under such circumstances there are only two kinds of messages from the crowd: cheers of support or boos of disapproval. Happily the British crowds are usually very generous, cheering quality athletes from any country so long as they are not competing against a Brit!
Listening to the crowd therefore has a huge impact. It is not the kind of thing that can be ignored. It is a powerful force that human beings communicate to indicate solidarity and support – and is worth every ounce as we compete to do the right thing on the world stage. Boos, equally, indicate we are out-of-step and do not find approval. That sends a strong message too. But it also assumes that the crowd is right.
The crowd sometimes gets it wrong. The Jewish crowd got it terribly wrong when Jesus was put up for trial on false charges. They yelled for Barabbas – a notorious criminal – to be released and Jesus to be crucified. The crowd also stoned Stephen to death – basically for speaking the painful truth.
Let’s hope we find the encouragement we need and provide the crowds with the reward of success or evidence of a job well done. And if they are booing…we may need to examine ourselves.
Posted on | July 20, 2012 | No Comments
No, I am not a therapist, but I have noticed how much people are helped when we simply listen.
Sometimes we don’t even need to say anything, but just listen. That was something else I learned from my wife…
I remember once when she came home after visiting someone facing difficulties. The lady poured out her heart – and my wife said very little. Just listened. When it was time to go the lady told her how much help she had been. As my wife recounted it to me she told how the lady had simply talked and talked – while she had virtually said nothing!
How does that work? I don’t fully understand it but one thing is clear: some people just need to know that someone hears them and takes on board what they say.
We might be tempted to think this is a women’s thing, but I have met many lonely men in the same boat. It is especially hard for people who live on their own. For them their understanding pets become their audience. But for those who don’t keep pets…?
Happily, listening is something we can all do. We don’t need a study program or impressive qualifications. But we may have to master that bad habit of turning people off when they want to dump…especially in our busy lives.
Posted on | July 12, 2012 | No Comments
This is a big one – because it strikes deep at who I am….
Not long after getting married I noted that my wife said very little – and I was doing all the talking. So I asked her why…
Her reply was very blunt: “What’s the point, because you never listen anyhow…?” Ouch! That hit hard – but it has never been forgotten.
Part of my difficulty was that I had lived on my own for the past few years and so had no one to talk to. Now, at last, I had an audience right on hand…
Even today I struggle to be a good listener. My wife tells me she notices when she has lost my attention because I develop that far-away look… My mind has taken off in a new direction triggered by what I have heard. This is the downside of having a fertile mind…!
But when I listen more there are some clear benefits… Let’s list some of the ones that stand out:
- Other people feel they are important and have something to say
- I learn more
- I also benefit from their input
- My perspectives are modified and enriched by what I have heard – even though it may not be what I was looking for
- We move forward together with a more balanced and complete understanding
- I earn greater respect in the process
- Our relationship is strengthened
Can’t be bad! Then why is it so difficult?
Posted on | June 1, 2012 | No Comments
How often have you been told that you have ‘cloth ears’? It used to happen to me with my Mum. “Didn’t I just tell you…?” etc.
While there are several theories about the origins of the expression it seems likely from one of Samuel Pepys’ diaries (May 1 1663, in fact) that cloth ears were devices worn by horses. They were intended to help them cope with noisy crowds.
In these days of “noise” of various kinds we can easily tune out. We have to! Imagine tuning in to every conversation we overhear – or every radio programme playing in the background. Or the sound of passing traffic, or planes flying overhead. It could drive us insane.
In other words our ears are usefully selective. We don’t have to listen intently to everything hitting our ear-drums — thankfully! Sometimes we just enjoy being lost in our own thoughts.
We just have to make sure that we tune in to those things that are important – either for our own good, or for the good of others that need an ear.
Sadly many audio devices these days force people to retreat into their own private world. Seeing ear plugs in a person’s ear I hear them saying loud and clear “DO NOT DISTURB”. Even travelling on public transport – buses, trains, planes – we used to chat with the person beside us, but no more. The trouble is that when we do strike up a conversation we may find the other person just wants to unload on us… Why? Perhaps there are too few of us around who are really willing to listen.