Good communication begins with the art of listening. Listening is not only about listening to the other; it is also about listening to oneself.

An old couple were in the habit of sitting together on their country home porch nearly every summer evening. This night, the moon was shining full, and the stars had a brilliant sparkle. Not far from their home, a small creek flowed, and from the creek banks came a chorus of crickets. He listened to the crickets and said, “crickets sure do sing.” And she agreed saying, “yes they sure know how to sing.”

Just then the lady heard the voices of the choir coming from the nearby country church and remarked, “beautiful music, isn’t it?” To which the man responded, “yeah, and to think they do it just by rubbing their legs together!”
Are we listening and responding to what the other is saying or are we listening to our concepts and frameworks?

Are we listening to what we want to hear? And when speak; are we making sure the other is clear from where we are arising? Firstly, are we ourselves clear?

What exactly is ‘communication?’ The word communication literally means the successful imparting or exchanging of news. It is the sharing of views and ideas between people. And there are several ways through which we communicate ourselves – from the slight flickering of an eye to being elaborately vocal, and yes, many times even through silence.

So, what brings about successful communication among people? Consider this - an average person speaks about 25,000 – 30,000 words a day but the same individual listens only at a 25% efficiency rate. If communication is all about successful sharing, then can the success of ‘sharing’ really be separated from listening? Aren’t speaking and listening two ends of the same coin? Do they not go hand in hand?

Good communication begins with the art of listening. Listening is not only about listening to the other; it is also about listening to oneself. An individual who has learnt to listen to himself, who is aware of his own thought processes is more willing and also better at listening to another. One who is a stranger to himself is also a stranger to another.

And when you listen to another, you not only pay attention to what the other is saying but also to the assumptions and concepts that arise within you even as you listen.

For instance, a 55-year-old senior executive working in a multinational corporate, when asked what were the values by which he had lived his life, said that for the last 30 years he had adhered steadfastly to the ideas of discipline and hard work. When asked to further elucidate, he said that to him discipline meant waking up early, abstaining from every form of pleasure including watching a movie and placing the organisation and its needs above all else in life. Upon listening to him, a colleague of his stood up and said with indignation, “what you are speaking of is not discipline, it is madness! To be disciplined is just to make sure you keep up your commitments and meet deadlines on time.”

What discipline meant to one individual was so different from what discipline meant to another! Each of us is living in a world constructed by our concepts and ideas. These ideas are like the spectacle through which we view our life. Imagine every idea to be like a spectacle with a particular shade of glass. Gradually, however, we forget that it is these spectacles that are colouring our experiences in a particular shade and begin to believe that the reality we perceive is absolute. We tend to get limited to our ideas of life, be it discipline, success, love, relationships or work.

A very important tool for effective communication is about being aware that each of us is wearing a different spectacle. When you come from this awareness, then you pay great attention to your own thought processes, which attention also spills over as you listen to the other. You come from a place of enquiry and intelligence, rather than one of assumption.

PrahasithaFaculty, One World Academy