In a noisy world we lose the ability to listen
In a world that can’t stop talking, we risk not knowing how to listen anymore .
“Man’s inability to communicate is the result of his inability to really listen to what is being said.” – Carl Rogers
“The biggest compliment I was ever given was when one asked me what I thought of it, and waited in silence for my answer.” -Henry David Thoreau
I propose, starting from these quotes, to do a little experiment: think of the last conversation you had with a friend, the phone call you received from an old schoolmate or, in this particular period, the last video call of group you have organized with friends or family.
The desire to share with your loved ones what you were doing and what new habits your days are marking, especially if you were in a good mood at the time, will have been medium / high.
However, in speaking, how much did you feel heard? How much did you perceive the other curious and really interested in what you were telling? And how much, on the other hand, did you find it difficult to respect the turns of the conversation and did you perceive a feeling of haste, as if in fact the conversation became a chase to win the right to be able to say something?
With this I absolutely do not want to desecrate and risk “polluting” so precious and comforting conversations in this period with our loved ones.
There will certainly have been, and fortunately, different exchanges, with different people, with different degrees of pleasure and intimacy. What I want to focus on, in this context, is about the feeling you have with the sensations just described that you are not really listened to in a conversation, have you ever perceived them? Do they sound like family to you in a way?
Society wants us to be protagonists
Western culture is undoubtedly organized around the individual. We see ourselves as single entities and we believe that our destiny is to express ourselves, pursue our happiness, be free from undue constraints and achieve our goals.
We don’t like to submit to the will of the group, or at least we don’t like to think we do it. It is therefore not surprising that our society values and promotes traits such as individualism , bravado and dialectical skills: we live more and more in a world where the important thing is not “what do you say”, but “how do you say it, how do you ask “; the authenticity of the content often risks being shaped by the influence one wishes to have on the interlocutor.
Of course, we all have an opinion and welcome that it is so, it is our right and, indeed, our nature, to observe, evaluate and reflect on the reality that surrounds us and want to share our thoughts.
However, driven by the unstoppable instinct to have our say, to tell everything that animates our life, to make us feel, we often forget a fundamental part which is, after all, the other side of the medal of speaking and together the requirement because there is a dialogue and a conversation: listening.
The wind howls, but the mountain remains motionless
An ancient Japanese proverb says “The wind howls, but the mountain remains motionless”. Listening, as well as a skill, is considered by the Asians an art. In Eastern culture, individualism, self-confidence and exhibitionism are replaced by the values of silence, humility and sensitivity , all characteristics that favor group cohesion and community life.
In Asia, individuals consider themselves part of a larger whole – be it the family, the company, the community – and give great value to harmony within the group itself, often subordinating their desires to the interests of the group.
Extroversion and introversion
For decades, scholars have been investigating the cultural differences that distinguish populations as different as Western and Eastern ones.
The psychologist Robert McCrae, for example, has devoted years of his life to the study of intercultural personality differences between East and West and has come to analyze above all the introversion-extroversion dimension .
From his study, which compared children from Shanghai and southern Ontario, between the ages of eight and ten, it was found that shy and sensitive children in Canada tended to be marginalized while in China the same traits they are appreciated and, in all likelihood, deemed necessary to take leadership positions .
Sensitive and reserved Asian children are called dongshi ( sympathetic ), a popular expression of praise; Similarly, Chinese high school students reported to McCrae and his researchers that they prefer “humble, selfless, peaceful and sincere” as friends, while American teenagers prefer the company of “joyful, enthusiastic, talkative and sociable” boys.
Westerners therefore seem to emphasize sociability, loquacity and give great importance to the attributes that allow you to create numerous social bonds and to appear in society; Orientals seem to appreciate deeper attributes related to moral virtues, such as understanding and listening.