Are you listening?

Photo: John Bolinger / Indiana Oh Indiana

Photo: John Bolinger / Indiana Oh Indiana

David Moe
Sun City, Calif.

With our modern means of communication, e-mail, texting, etc., I wonder if anyone is listening. I saw a joke that said, “I went downstairs and met my family, they are really nice people.” Have we really become this disconnected?

Dr. Albert Schweitzer was once asked at a news conference in London, “Doctor, what is basically wrong with people today?” He replied, “People simply do not listen.” Watching panel discussions on T.V., they are all so busy getting in their “talking points,” everyone is talking and no one is listening; is that communication? To me, communication is listening and then responding, it is a two-way process and not one way.

There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is merely a physical experience, impossible to avoid. Listening is a complicated process of absorbing, processing and acting upon what we hear, it involves empathy, compassion, understanding, without being judgmental. Everyone has their own agenda, so they end up hearing only what fits into their agenda. They become a “case is closed” listener. Also, some people tend to talk in generalities, without being specific. Oliver Wendell Holmes, former Justice of the Supreme Court, once said, “No generalization is worth a damn, including this one.”

The following is taken from “Elements of Psychology” by David Krech and Richard S. Crutchfield: “Our worlds are … to a considerable degree, one world, and this makes human communication possible. Were we not to believe that another person’s world is basically similar to our own, we would not feel that we could communicate with them. We live in Hotel Universe, each of us permanently locked in their own private room, tapping out messages on walls to neighboring rooms in the belief that though we can never visit the other rooms, they are furnished much like our own … yet, to extend the metaphor, we come to realize that the rooms of the deaf are silent, the rooms of the blind are dark, and those occupied by a neighbor, who belongs to the ‘other’ political party, church, or nationality, is equipped with viewing and hearing devices that somehow permit them to see or hear things that we have never seen nor heard.”

Maybe communication is so complicated that we resort to one-way texting, so we don’t have to listen. The means of communication have changed dramatically in the last fifty years, but in my opinion, two-way communication has declined. Young people may not agree, but I would welcome your opinion.

Let’s start a conversation.

This article originally appeared in the June 27, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.