I’ve always been somewhat of a Chatty Cathy.
In second grade I was sent to the principal’s office for a “behavioral issue” that involved me and opening my mouth just a tad too frequently. If given the chance, I could talk for hours. I could talk about anything and everything: my passion for avocado toast, my vendetta with my third grade nemesis, or even the weather. When it comes down to it, I’m a social being; I like to share myself with the world.
But, recently, I’ve realized that I and others have lost the ability to listen. Who is to blame for robbing an entire generation of their ears?
Just this past week, I was catching up with an old family friend at HyVee. I was running through the typical conversation pieces: how school is going, how my parents are, and if I’ve thought about college yet. We conversed for a few fleeting moments, said our goodbyes in the cereal aisle and went our separate ways. When I came home, I walked in the door, told my parents I ran into so-and-so, and went about my business. My mom replied, “Oh! That’s so great, we haven’t seen her in forever! What did you guys chat about?”
That’s when it hit me. I could remember every preplanned word I had said, yet I couldn’t remember if this woman was having the best or worst year of her life.
This situation is happening to an entire generation. In this day, people have replaced the art of listening with bland, premeditated responses about themselves. Listening is not about waiting to come up with the perfect response to a question, it’s about sharing in the human connection.
There are 7.53 billion people in this world who have an even bigger number of stories to share. Their eyes light up and their faces curls into a smile at the moment they get to share these stories, and to not even truly listen to them would be the biggest missed opportunity of our lives.
The way we grow in knowledge, love and strength is by hearing about the experiences of others. We sympathize with and listen to others to better ourselves.
You read about stories where two strangers are talking and somehow one of them shares a detail, and they realize they know each other from a past life. You’ve cried over these stories; the soldier and the refugee boy, the woman and her childhood sweetheart, the mother and her long-lost son. None of these discoveries would have been made without taking the time to just listen.
Not only do we have to start listening again, we have to care about what we are hearing. After every single conversation you have, you should be able to take something away from it. Whether it be something as small as being updated on how an old friend is doing or something as big as an “Aha moment” with the gates of heaven opening and being told the meaning of life. We should always be able to learn something new.
My only hope for the future is that we can engage in these moments of human connection fully and wholeheartedly. Let’s work towards truly listening to others and putting our own responses aside. Let’s share our stories but also hear the stories of others. Let’s finally get our ears back.