Are You Really Listening?

January 14, 2008
By Courtney Smarr, Cedar Park, TX

How would you define listening? The dictionary states it as making an effort to hear something. That may be true, but that’s definitely not a complete description. It’s an effort to hear something using consideration, patience, care, trust, understanding, and especially an open mind. That’s listening.

Sure, it may sound plain and regular, but think about it. Where would you be without someone to vent to? Someone you know will take in the things you say and break them down to the real meaning. I know where you’d be. You’d be crazy. Keeping thoughts in your head will do that to you. The sad part is, there aren’t many people these days that are capable and willing to take the time to listen to others anymore. Of course, there are psychologists and therapists, which are awesome, but that’s not always the kind of listening someone’s seeking. Most people just want to be heard. If you’ve ever seen the movie Fight Club, it’s a perfect example. He has been suffering from insomnia for six months, so he eventually seeks medical help to solve it. The doctor blows him off, not caring about a word he has to say. The only advice given is “You wanna see pain? Swing by First Methodist Tuesday nights. See the guys with testicular cancer. That's pain.” For some reason, he goes and the minute someone else came up to him and wanted to know what was on his mind, all his problems were gone. When asked why he attends these groups without having any source of cancer he replies with, “When people think you're dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just... instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.” No quote has ever meant so much to me as that one does. As unpleasant as the thought is, it’s absolutely true and absolutely pathetic at the same time. That people are too caught up in themselves to give someone the time of day, and it finally dawns on them that this person matters only when their lives are ending.
I’m not saying to go out and listen to everyone you can to see what they have to say. Rather, when someone does come to you and needs the support, care, understanding, take the time and pay attention. Listening invites you into someone else’s point of view about the world. The way they analyze things, see things, and feel about things. Opening your mind to other people’s thoughts can teach you so much. So, next time someone confronts you ready to spill, remind yourself the real meaning of listening. Don’t blow off what they have to tell you. If it was worthy enough to say, it must have a worthy enough meaning. You don’t have to agree with a word of it, and in fact, that just makes you want to listen closer, doesn’t it?

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