Wait, What?

December 18, 2008
By Katy Chmela, Downers Grove, IL

Wait, what?

Have you ever been in the middle of a really cool story and thought that the person you were telling it to wasn’t listening? Well, they probably weren’t. You can probably say that you have been the person who wasn’t listening as well. Then we finally tune ourselves back in for the last sentence and we only hear, “and they ended up in my protein shake” and we are forced to say, “Wait, what?”
In our society, we have a really hard time paying attention to others. It’s not because we don’t want to listen, but because we get distracted really easily. In this day and age, there are many things that are there to take our attention away from others. Like technology, for example, steals our attention as well as a kleptomaniac would. In my house, my mom is almost always talking, but the TV is almost always on as well. Of course, the TV drowns out my mother because watching “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF” is much more interesting than my mom telling me I need to take a few baskets of laundry up to my room. After another half hour of sitting in front of the TV, my mom will come in the room and ask why there are still 3 baskets of clean clothes not in my room, and I’ll say, “Because you never took them upstairs?” And she will then turn off the TV, stand in front of it, and repeat her directions and steal the remote control until I have done my task. Or if a person is listening to an iPod, they most likely will not even hear a person talk to them. With so many technological advances in out society, you would think that the population is getting smarter, but with all these personal electronics, it is kind of hard to tell.

Another thing that steals our attention away from others is that we hate listening to people talk about themselves. Sure, its okay to talk about yourself sometimes, because it is a confidence booster, but if every story you tell is about you, then nobody is going to listen. You may think, “Psh, people love my stories,” but would you really be entertained if someone told you the story about the time they were walking their dog saw their mutual friend’s crazy ex-girlfriend crossing the street. It was probably one of those, “You had to be there...” moments. If you had to be there, why are you bothering telling the story in the first place?
One probable cause for people not listening to your stories because you might be a bad story-teller, but that is a totally different topic.
A wise man once said, “LISTEN and SILENT have the same letters, and I think that is no coincidence.” Maybe, just maybe, the key to listening is to shut up for once. Many of us have a tendency to just keep going on and on and on with a story, and never letting anyone else talk. Someone could be in the middle of a story, and you could lean over to another friend listening and say, “This is a really dumb story.” This will start a whole new conversation, and the person left telling the story never gets to finish it, because everybody else wouldn’t listen. It is usually common courtesy for people to not interrupt others when they are speaking, but some people are just really annoying and they talk a lot and they don’t know any better.
Of course, we try to pay attention to what other people say, but it can be hard. We are so distracted so easily these days that we find ourselves asking, “Wait, what?” at the end of every conversation, and it is not because we are hard of hearing. My mother claims that everybody in my family must be deaf because we put the TV on the highest volume and never listen to her, but we are just really distracted when she talks to us.
Here is some advice to listeners out there- LISTEN. Don’t pretend you are listening and throw out random interjections throughout a person’s story. You actually have to pay attention to a story teller to experience their story. If you are watching television with a friend, and you start to tell a story, make sure to turn the TV off so you can listen to each other talk without any distractions. And make sure to actually look at the person who is talking to you. Eye contact can be a major factor in telling whether a person is looking or not. And if you are being told something by your mom or dad, you should probably do it. Not paying attention can have consequences, you know. Like if you do not stop, look, and listen before you cross the street you could get hit by a car and die. Or you could just get grounded for not obeying your mom when she told you to take your clean clothes up the stairs. Either way, paying attention to others is very beneficial. So next time you are being told a story, make sure to pay attention, because it could be a very interesting story when you actually hear the whole thing.

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This article has 2 comments.

flibrarian said...
on Jan. 6 2009 at 2:23 am
A thoughtful piece, and wisdom all would do well to listen to. Wait, what?

212829skiler said...
on Jan. 4 2009 at 10:58 pm
This is really well written, and I liked that you included a personal narrative, but have you ever thought about the media being part of this. I remember watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother. There was a point at which a character was listening to her mother on the phone, but, eventually another character comes in and starts talking, during this conversation the first character does not listen to her mother. Things like these, even though they don't pertain to the episode, they do still stick in our mind, and a normal person could start imitating that. So, besides technology, their are other factors that you can think about that pertains to this story. But you do do a great job, and it is really well written.

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