Michael Weiner

March 7, 2021

The ability to listen is disappearing

Listening to what others say is infinitely more intricate than simply listening to the words coming out of their mouth. Now, more than any other time in my life, I feel as if most people have lost their ability to listen to what people are saying - beyond just the words they are speaking. 
There are many things to observe and absorb when listening to another person speak. 

  • At the most basic level, what does the person literally say? What words come out of their moth? More importantly, what do they not say?
  • Why does the person choose one word or phrase instead of another? 
  • Does this person speak often or rather infrequently?
  • What perspective does a person bring when they speak? 
  • How does the person inflect their words? What emotions carry the person's words? 
  • Is a person restricted to speaking only with words? 

The above list is in no way complete or exhaustive. Rather it is a list of things one might want to consider when listening to a person.

I pick up many details others miss - especially when I am talking with people one-on-one. As Zoom meetings and large, digital group discussions have become more common with the ongoing pandemic I have realized just how many people speak only to create noise and to hear their own voices. When some people respond to an idea they have just heard from another person, it is clear by their response (or lack thereof) that they were (usually) not listening to the person at all - at least not on a deep level.

This tends to be why I infrequently speak up in large group discussions or meetings. They often delve into frays of competition for the right to speak, usually by interrupting each other's thoughts. What is the purpose of any conversation if people are not truly listening to what anyone else is trying to convey?

I often wonder if the overwhelming role of social media in everyday life is one of the hidden culprits for this issue. Social media is all about quick responses and reactions. Share your ideas with everyone else. Get the most interactions. Squash or ignore any attention from other perspectives that you do not agree with. 
I think this is where a return to long form written communication plays a critical role. Writing, whether it be an email, journal, letter, etc., prevents an immediate response. At a minimum, a person has to write their ideas instead of just immediately speaking their raw thoughts. Written communication also allows people to re-read an idea or perspective a person is sharing and gives them time to think and mature their own response. 
Ultimately, it feels as though society is always in a rush anymore. A rush to be the first to do anything. It's okay not to be the first. It seems as though we need to slow down more than ever. In our world, the ability to listen to what others around us are saying is more crucial now than at any other point in our history. 

It is time to slow down and listen to what each other has to say - more than just the words coming from their mouth. 

About Michael Weiner

Hey, visitor! I'm Michael, a software engineer based in Minnesota, USA. I am an IBMer working on IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service. Feel free to poke around some of my work at michaelweiner.org. Below are some of my personal thoughts on business and my experiences in the computer science industry. Thanks for reading!