Is Anybody Listening?

many talk but few listen

When Silence Speaks

Posted on | April 19, 2016 | No Comments

Silence can sometimes speak very loudly. Most recently one news reporter in Brussels was there to report on the aftermath of the bombings there a few weeks ago.

The crowds gathered in the streets stood in silence – a very poignant silence that spoke volumes.

Sometimes it is the still small voice or the complete absence of sound – when you could ‘hear a pin drop’ – that gets peoples’ attention.

Silence can sometimes bring a senseless argument to a halt. It is the best response – but possibly the most difficult. How we admire people who have the courage – and poise – to stand in silence while verbal abuse and mockery is hurled at them…

Yet such silence speaks. And people listen.

In an increasingly hectic and chaotic world where senseless bombing cause unnecessary loss of life and families are torn apart the crowd in Brussels made their point in defiance.

It was powerful. Silence had spoken.

We heard.

Before corrupt courts there is sometimes no point in answering. When Jesus Christ appeared before the Roman governor Pilate, he was first accused by the chief priests and elders – but gave no answer. ‘The Pilate asked him “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you? ” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge – to the great amazement of the governor.’

He too made his point – but it was not heeded. They were not listening… and that led to his death.

Being heard – being respected

Posted on | November 13, 2014 | No Comments

Much frustration is generated in people who feel they are not being heard… They are ordinary people, just like you and me.  Perhaps you are one of them. Somehow our pleas for help – or even recognition – are not being heard.

In times past it may not have felt so bad, but in these days of social-networking we begin to expect an audience – at least someone somewhere who has noticed us and are aware of our existence. In many respects the knowledge that these channels exist – and yet no one seems to acknowledge us – just makes it more painful. We all need an audience of some kind.

But when there is no apparent audience it leads to despair and much soul-searching and grief.  Sometimes suicide.

Perhaps this condition afflicts our teenagers more than any other – a feeling that fuels hopelessness in lives for which peer recognition is at its most critical.

Yet the underlying issue is one of showing respect, is it not?. Does not everyone have the right to be heard – and understood?

Listening to others is not something we are taught, nor is it something we are very good at,  but when we do listen – and people know we are listening – it reaps wonderful rewards.

The moral is that we should be more concerned about taking time to listen to others than we are about making ourselves heard. Strangely, perhaps, it is when we invest more in listening to our intended listeners and accord them due respect, that we become better communicators ourselves.



Listening to the Right People

Posted on | June 22, 2014 | No Comments

This thought was triggered by listening to this morning’s Sunday program on BBC Radio 4. The Vicar of Baghdad, as he is known, was being interviewed about the current sad state of affairs in Iraq.

His advice was that the warring factions need to listen to one another. Listen to the right people – people who have something to say. People with both knowledge and wisdom. I said a loud ‘amen!’

People with wisdom have a lot to teach us. There is knowledge available in abundance, but the right people couple useful knowledge with a profound wisdom. Many of the conflicts we face today are exceedingly complex. They also have long histories which need to be unravelled to be fully understood.

Wise people are not immediately obvious. They do not push themselves forward. They do not rush to offer solutions. They are not there to make a name for themselves. They are usually exceedingly humble and will point to their own limitations. In fact wise people often need to be sought out – but when found they clearly demonstrate a vast wealth of wisdom that needs to be tapped into.

Godly wisdom is something we should all cherish. Through such people God reveals his wisdom which far exceeds our own. And as the Bible points out the knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom.

Got a big problem? Perhaps you need to seek out a wise person who can give you the advice you need and whose insights are invaluable.  Or you could try listening to God…. Now, that’s an idea…

By the way, wise people are usually those who listen well…



When People Don’t Want to Listen…

Posted on | April 3, 2014 | No Comments

When this happens it is time to pause and take stock…

What could be going wrong? In reality there could be a whole lot of reasons, many of which we have discussed already. But to clarify what we mean here  – it is about people who deliberately refuse to listen.

In other words, there is something else going on here that we need to understand. It brings us back to the over-riding need that we have to understand our audience…

Here are three possible reasons:

  • They have pre-judged what we want to say
  • They know that what we want to say will make them feel uncomfortable
  • They dismiss us as lacking any credibility with them

Each of these is serious and suggests that we have a lot of work to do to turn this around…

First, we could simply ‘shake the dust off our feet’ and give up…. The cost of doing this would need to be assessed. It depends how much we care – and how important our message…

The second option would be far more demanding – but potentially rewarding. We find a creative way of first getting their attention and then getting through to them…

And that is where the creativity comes in…  Cast your own mind back to those instances when you have been drawn into watching TV programs, or listening to radio programs – or even a speaker… What was it that engaged your attention?

Analysing the success of the BBC TV cooking series The Great British Bakeoff critics were suggesting the various elements that contributed to it drawing such a huge audience. They listed many – but one in particular caught my attention. It was the element of intrigue. Intrigue is that element where something is going on in the background – or beneath the surface – that rouses our curiosity and interest. It is the same kind of thing that drew my grandmother into becoming an avid follower of The Archers – an everyday story of country folk. Going back even further it was Jesus’ favourite way of communicating – through parables. These described regular everyday situations his listeners could relate to – but with a twist. There was also a paradox in the story.

In more modern times we might recall the on-going fascination with The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. He was the master of allegory and his stories have intrigued children and adults alike for fifty years or more. C.S. Lewis understood that allegory was a brilliant way of getting behind the barriers. Surrounded by a host of sceptics himself in the academic environment of Oxford University he found ways to put across Christian realities and the possibility of other dimensions of life by telling stories, stories that would intrigue, because their meaning was not immediately obvious.

We could write a whole book on this fascinating topic, but for the people of today impacted by post-modernism and the scepticism it encourages, this may be what it takes to get people’s attention and get them listening.

It could be a long haul…

The Hard Question

Posted on | January 20, 2014 | No Comments

Isn’t it wonderful to meet people who listen to us and appreciate what we are saying? It’s a tonic indeed – and gives us renewed energy as well as insight.

But what about those who don’t – or won’t – listen? That is the tough one…

And yet this hard question could be one of the most helpful in our striving to do better… Why don’t people listen? Why don’t they want to engage with us?

Here are a few suggestions on why people do not engage:

  • lack of awareness that we exist, or how to find us. We may need to use more popular media to point to our products.
  • wrong medium: they don’t do radio, or whatever. They prefer TV, or new media options.
  • unsuitable hours: they spend long hours at work and it is too late when they get home.
  • lack of interest in our current conversations: they find us boring, in content, presentation or both.
  • no interaction encouraged: they would prefer conversations they can engage in; they also want to be heard.
  • too much choice: why should they listen to us when there are other more appealing options?
  • they can’t understand us: we may use too many words or concepts they can’t relate to.
  • bad image or reputation: our brand may no longer be good for our intended audiences.
  • they don’t like our attitude or how we position ourselves. We sound superior…

These can be discussed further in later blogs, but for now the question is sufficient: Why don’t people listen?

It’s a hard one, but one that has to be asked – and hopefully answered.

Wrong Number?

Posted on | January 17, 2014 | No Comments

How often have you discovered you have been trying to contact someone on the wrong phone number – or perhaps an old phone number that is no longer in use? It is frustrating because of the lack of response – especially if you have something important or urgent to discuss.

You are not getting through.

It can easily happen when using e-mail, too, simply because the person you are trying to reach is not checking e-mail because they are now using Facebook. Or they choose to follow the excitement of the latest news and trends through Twitter. They want action!

Sadly this experience in its various forms is all too familiar. New technologies are replacing old. Since the arrival of digital technologies the number of channels to tune in to has multiplied dramatically. There are limitless choices we can make. People move on. They are not where they always used to be – and they haven’t told you. Younger people are growing up into a different world where choices abound and brand loyalty is difficult to find.

For those of us who work in media and communication this can prove to be a constant headache as we try to keep up. Better still if we could stay ahead of the crowd… Meanwhile Zuckerberg and his friends at Facebook have plans to have people across the entire world connected to the Internet. (See Netflix on the other hand is projecting that in 30 years broadcast television will have been replaced by a network of video being available on demand whenever  and wherever you want it.

What does this mean for us? Here are a few things:

  1. We need to track how people of different ages are using media of all kinds in our society or community. Research studies available on the web can help us with these statistics.
  2. We also need to stay extra close to our listener or audience so that we know when he or she moves – and what they move to.
  3. We need to focus on meeting people at their point of need. This may mean addressing issues of poverty, homelessness, hunger, suffering – or topics that we have never thought of before.
  4. Peoples’ listening habits are largely determined by their age, by their social environment and location. We must find the best channel for them.
  5. Young people expect to be able to interact and engage. They are not content to be passive recipients any longer. Why not include them in our programs?

And if we don’t heed these things….? We may find we have the wrong number. There is nobody there!



Getting People Listening

Posted on | November 15, 2013 | No Comments

First Response Radio in Tacloban 98.7MHz

Emergency broadcasts were launched on 14 November

Getting people to listen to what we want to say is half the battle – perhaps the bigger half.  If we have something good to say but have no listeners it is all in vain.

One very specific challenge we face at this time of writing is how to deliver the message of Safe Water to the people of Tacloban in the Philippines, badly impacted by the recent Haiyan (Yolanda) monster typhoon.

One means is through music. The delivery method has yet to be determined but by putting the song here and then tweeting the hyperlink we open up the possibility that others may be able to download it and get it to a radio station – like Response Radio on 98.7Mz on air since Wednesday in Tacloban City.

See what you think of this catchy tune – in Tagalog. It is brought to you by Health Songs, an organisation dedicated to bringing vital health messages to vulnerable communities through song.

When a Nation Doesn’t Listen

Posted on | July 18, 2013 | No Comments

Can a nation stop listening – or refuse to listen?

A few weeks ago Britain was marking the passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In a BBC radio programme commentators were reviewing how she had dealt with the trade unions that had assumed so much power and control under Harold Wilson’s Labour Government.

During the discussion a single phrase caught my attention: “The country was not listening.” It was used in reference to the 1936 Jarrow March organised by the people of Jarrow, near Newcastle, in protest at massive unemployment in the shipyards of the northeast. 207 people marched peacefully to London – a distance of nearly 300 miles – to present a petition to the British government, led by Stanley Baldwin. But nobody took much notice… The government paid them off with a return train ticket so that they could go home. But nothing happened. Disheartening, to say the least…

There are times when people block their ears. They don’t want to hear when others are complaining (you have your troubles, I have mine) or when the news is too uncomfortable to their ears – a warning perhaps.

It has happened many times in the past.

More disturbing is when the real facts are not being truly presented or heard. Government propaganda can distort the facts. Journalists can hype some aspects of a story so that the most critical things are overlooked. This results in people no longer listening because they don’t know who to trust. Or they have made up their own minds already.

Sometimes God speaks as he did to people back in history – the Israelites in particular. They didn’t listen, and I am fearful lest we do the same. The results could be catastrophic.

Silence is Golden – Really?

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…?


And you…?

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?

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