Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shush! I wasn't done.

Today's world is so ready to talk—and so ill-equipped to listen—miscommunication is at an all-time high. 

Every high school, college and HR Department should offer a once-a-year course in communication skills training, No one should be exempt from this one. It's stunning to me to encounter the sheer number of people who don't know how to properly communicate. Here's what I mean. Here's your basic conversational dynamic; you speak, I listen. Then, I speak, YOU listen. Simple right? Wrong. No one can seem to do this. No ONE. Not in 7.1 Billion souls on Earth can a single one of us seem to get this right. 

And it's getting worse. 

Not a day goes by when in my teenager-ridden home that at least half of them are talking at once. Let me repeat that. At least two of the four people in the room are talking at the same time, often at full volume (i.e., shouting). 

On Immigrants and Nukes and Shouting Real Loud

Recently, President Obama was speaking about new landmark developments concerning some spectacular policy changes in our county's relationship with Iran. Then, without provocation, several young people in the crowd start shouting—at The President of The United States!—about immigration policy reform. 

Are you kidding me? This is the leader of the free world you dope! Stop talking and let the man speak! He will get to your topic right after he shares how we might be able to avoid World War III by bringing Iran to the table to discuss nuclear disarmament. Kind of sounds important doesn't it? The hecklers would have thought so too if they had taken a moment to shut their mouths, open their ears and listen. 

In all fairness, the president handled himself in a cool and commanding manner, while reminding the hecklers that, "What I'm proposing is the harder path, which is using our democratic process" Obama reminds the passionate, yelling young man,"It won't be as easy as shouting, it requires using our laws to get things done." You can see the exchange, here.

The hecklers would have known this if they had simply LISTENED in their American history class, they would have known the office of the President is NOT a king, that laws are tradition of our democratic process and that means people discussing and voting on said laws to bring about change.

The Lost Art Of Listening 

So if the President can't get a word in on foreign policy, what hope does my living room have? What chance do co-workers have in the free exchange of ideas and concepts if two or more are talking at once? Or worse, when someone is railroading someone else in a conversation (this is when someone is speaking and another party begins speaking right over them before they are finished making their point). 

As I understand things, the exchange of ideas means only one person speaks while one or more listen. I learned that from the Baby-Boomers, the generations that lived through the depression, the American Dust Bowl tragedy of the 1930's and a couple World Wars. Not only do they know how to listen, I would argue they have a thing or two worth hearing, seeing as they have lived through nuclear scares, the overhaul of civil rights and horrific wars coupled with spell-binding social change. 

Children speak over each other, adults bulldoze conversations and even the President of the United States can't seem to get a word in edgewise. We may all be doomed to the horrible consequences of our inability to listen. 

The world, the very Earth itself is crying out for us to change our ways. If we raise generations that only speak and don't listen how will they know not to repeat the same mistakes of previous generations? The world seems to be the same powder keg as it always has been but fewer and fewer people are paying any attention because everyone is talking.

So I pose this question if everyone is speaking at once—in the room, in the country, in the world—then,  who's listening? 
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