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How listening can save lives.

Listening is not a gift. It's an art. It is something that you consciously learn and inculcate. The rate of mental illness and depression in the world rises steadily by the day. Many are mostly due to problems that affect our emotion. Man is an emotive being and ninety percent of man's issues are directly connected to his emotions. When a man is emotionally imbalanced, then his psychology is consequently unbalanced as well.

But many problems could be easily solved if we learn the art of truly listening. And this is not solely the work of therapist, psychiatrists or what we call shrinks or even the clergy, many people are speaking through a lot of suppressed emotion. But the world is too busy to listen. Suicides rates are alarming nowadays. I agree that no one can single handedly save the world, and everyone surely carries a baggage, but some deaths can easily be avoided if we imbibe the art of listening to people. People have had causes to regret because they are not patient to listen to others and when they realise they should have, it is rather late.

I had an experience years ago. A friend tried to share her thoughts with me. She had issues with her boyfriend. I didn't realise all she wanted me to do was listen. I didn't realise that my silence was enough. But I opened my mouth to give an unwanted advice and even condemned her boyfriend. I did not know it really got her angry until later. The man accused me of wanting to break up their relationship and I was both embarrassed and angry. But I learnt a vital lesson that day. When it comes to relationships, when partners vent about each other, it does not mean that they hate each other. Even in cases of domestic violence, it takes a lot of wisdom and tact to listen and offer advice. Because in such cases, the victim is in a weird way attached to the abuser and he or she would always feel there is still room for change or development. Many times the victim is in throes of high powered manipulation of the abuser.

What is the art of listening?

I have learnt to be quiet and hear people out. When I have clients with matrimonial issues, I hear them out. Many while briefing you just want to unburden their pain. Some break down and cry. While for others as you listen to their story, you can pick out possible chance of reconciliation. Some admit to their mistakes and I realise that it is not the time to kick them even further. So I ask them if I could say anything. And I tell them what they think can be done. I have realised that people respond honestly when you hand over the power to them whilst guiding them to make their own decisions rather than imposing advice on them.

Many people always have a tough time reposing confidence in others. And so it takes quite a lot to open up to people. Fear of their confidence being betrayed is one. Fear of being judged is another. Fear of being condemned is yet another.

About a year ago, I felt a need to share my heart with a close friend. I called on phone and just gave him a brief detail. I was so distressed and quite low in spirit. He listened but then I had to cut the call midway to attend to other things. When I called back, the first thing he uttered was so judgmental. I lapsed into silence and changed the topic. I made light of the matter even though it burned in my heart.

From my own experience I realise that once people see that all you want to do is judge them, they withhold their confidences. Some people only hear when you speak but do not listen. They hear and want to quickly make points or give examples. Some even make light of your travails telling you that they have been through worse. A distressed person does not need to be told that. You may think his problems are little, but it may be overwhelming for him. Our threshold for pain and survival actually differs. And if you want to lighten their burden, let them know what they undergo is for a time but do not mock people's challenges.

The world needs better listeners. And its art we can all imbibe. Listening can save a lot of mistakes, heartaches, errors, suicides, deaths, depression and mental imbalance. Because when you listen, you tend to hear even what is not yet said. When you listen, be attentive and relaxed. Always keep an open mind. Listen to the words and try to create a mental picture of what the speaker is saying. And never interrupt or try to impose your own solutions. And never listen to criticise. If the person however asks for your criticism, do it constructively.

Listening is a great art that can become a gift. Because in a world filled with so much noise, silence conveys a greater message.

And that can only be discovered when you listen.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Nov 24, 2018
Words:920
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