Listening: Simple yet Complicated



Near the end of 8th grade, Ms. Cook, my Social Studies teacher, initiated a class-wide discussion on how we can make the world a better place. The problem was everyone was sharing ideas right and left, with no regard for what was being said. It was as if everyone was not in one, single room, but forty smaller rooms. There were a lot of good ideas floating around, but a few minutes in, she stopped us. Ms. Cook told us that although she thought we were all smart and had wonderful ideas, we were not doing one thing that is vital to have any effect on others. Then she wrote one word on the board in front of the class: “listening.”


Listening is simple and complicated all at once. According to Merriam Webster, listening is “to pay attention to a sound” or “to hear something with thoughtful attention: to give consideration”. These definitions are so simple, yet oftentimes, people are not able to do it.


To listen, you would have to focus on what someone else is saying. You would have to look at the person, without thinking about anything else, without interrupting them, and without being distracted. You would have to realize that although you may not agree with them, or know what they are talking about, the person has their own thoughts, and a lot of the time they will not only want to share them, but want to hear and understand your thoughts. Basically, you would have to care about others. Unfortunately, this is something some people seem to struggle with, especially when discussing controversial issues.


The point of any discussion is to connect and get ideas from each other. The point of a discussion is to learn from one another through their experiences and their thoughts; not only to care about others but to be open to and consider different perspectives.


To learn, you have to listen, or else it is not one discussion. It is a room of people having conversations with themselves.