Can we listen anymore?

The distinction between listening and waiting for your chance to talk is a critical one to make. As our lives become increasingly harried with a multitude of media and tasks demanding our attention, wading through the maddening flow of our own emotions and identity, it is at times difficult to know which we’re actually doing.

I’ll risk sounding like a horrible person and admit that I notice myself most obviously slipping between the two during conversations with my grandfather – our dialogue is pretty organized, as little changes in his life, and the changes in my life deal mostly with people he’s never met. We disagree on politics and religion, so we steer clear of those topics. We talk about the weather a lot, and about going out to eat. All of this is fine, but is there really any value to a scripted discussion?

The implication of having a dialogue where nobody really listens reaches far beyond superficial weekly phone calls to relatives. Political figureheads and pundits ramble on and twist words, refusing to answer questions that aren’t on their agenda. University students with separate ideologies can barely converse, discussion on beliefs dissintigrating into diatribe because nobody’s listening. Trade discussions hit walls, with one side refusing to step into the other’s shoes. World leaders refuse to listen to their own people, and lash out angrily with little consideration for context or consequences.

So where are we headed? Are we soon to become a society with earmuffs on, shouting at the top of our lungs? Or are we going to take a breath, look people in the eye, and perhaps give a little time to try and see it the other person’s way?

Today, I broke out of my mold a bit – I talked with my grandfather about the pace of life, and the stress of watching it slip away so fast. We talked about the importance of finding someone special to spend time with. We shared a moment of unspoken sadness, as he told me that he still visits the cemetary every day.

The script was gone, and we were just two people talking.

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