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I Am Ringing The Warning Bell. Are you Listening, Ladies?

Discussion in 'Wednesdays with Varalotti' started by varalotti, Jan 16, 2007.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Most Gracious ILites,

    I wanted to take something strong, something too hot to handle and controversial enough to be spicy. But two reasons compel me to defer that decision by a week. One, returning from your Pongal holidays, I don’t want to give you something shocking straightaway.

    Your bosses at office, in-laws at home, and in some cases, spouses, will be doing that job. And I don’t want to meddle with their rights and duties. Second, before we take something serious, we need to have this quality of listening. Otherwise even if I were to reveal the the Greatest Truth to you, it will not make a difference in your lives.

    But only after finished writing the thread did I realise that this has also become heavier than I expected.

    What is listening? It is not merely courtesy or good manners, that tells us to keep quiet when the other person is talking. It is paying attention to others – not just with your ears, not even with your head and ears, but with your heart, head and ears.

    Should a biweekly thread of Varalotti in a 3000-strong ladies forum be wasted on such an obvious thing, as listening? Ladies, I listen well; that is why I can hear these words being muttered by your mouths as you start reading this thread.

    Listening is becoming rarer by the day. No one listens. I am even tempted to define human being as a (un) social animal who never listens.

    “Oh”, you protest. “The other day when my boss was giving instructions I listened so well that I carried them out so perfectly and got a special word of appreciation from her. And you are talking about listening to me, eh?”

    Wait, Madam. It is easy and quite natural to listen to your boss. For your career is at stake. By the same token you tend to listen to your mother-in-law or somebody who can make or mar your career or domestic life. But do you listen with the same intensity to your maid, to your child, to your subordinate, to your attendant?

    Let us say that you go to a meeting where Suki Sivam, or Solomon Pappiah or Actor Vikram, whosoever may be your favourite speaker, speaks. There you listen with your eyes popping out, with your heart doing some extra lub-dubs per minute and you can mimic even their facial contortions to your spouse back home. Well that is easy.

    As a psychologist said, it is easy to love the entire mankind. But it is far more difficult to love a troublesome neighbour. Similarly it is easy to listen to the public speaker. But to listen to your child when she talks about her school or college experiences, to listen to your colleague talking about her problems, well, honestly it requires some mind set and definitely some good training.

    I was the pilot faculty in a leadership camp some 11 years ago. We had invited a professional trainer who wanted to prove to us that the students are poor in listening. We gave the floor to him. He distributed a sheet of paper to all the students. The paper contained some 20 instructions. He said that he will reward the student who first complies with all the instructions.

    When the bell went off the students attacked the sheet with fury. They were quiet fast in complying with the instructions. Among those 20 instructions were some really funny ones. Like stand up and say your name aloud. Do a jig. Sing your favourite song aloud. The tamasha was too good to miss. I patted on the shoulders of the trainer, “See how smart our kids are.”

    He nodded and silently passed the copy of the sheet to me. It started like this:

    Instruction 1: Read this sheet fully and do not do any thing it tells you to do until you have read the 20<sup>th</sup> instruction.
    Naturally I immediately read the 20<sup>th</sup> instruction.
    Instruction 20: Do not follow the instructions 2 to 19. Just hand over this sheet to the trainer.

    I was stunned. Out of some 70 students only 3 did the right thing. And what the trainer said was even more appalling. He said if we do the test for adults above 40, you will find almost no one doing it right.

    Now do you understand my definition of human being, “an animal which never listens.”

    Then the trainer took a brilliant session on listening which lasted for 90 minutes. (How many people listened to it, I don’t’ know. But I did listen)

    Why did not the students follow the instructions? Because the trainer had announced a contest and they wanted to beat others to win the prize.

    And in a conversation why do not the adults listen? Because all the time we are busy thinking about saying things to impress the other person. We want to stand out in the conversation as a better speaker but end up a worse listener. That is the whole crux.

    I have been doing counselling on the side. I have done face to face counselling, e-counselling, phone counselling and have even counselled in the chat mode. When I listen to their problems I can immediately see the therapeutic effects on the person.

    Many people have problems because they have virtually nobody who would listen to them, in spite of the fact they are a part of a very large family and have a number of friends. Many times when you listen without interrupting you have very productively and successfully counselled the person.


    Contd.....

     
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Part 2

    The person will say the problem for the first few minutes and then will suggest a few solutions. You need to just do the summing up. And the next morning when the person calls you up to say, “Boss, I slept peacefully for the first time in 10 years. A big thanks to you.“

    I do not lift my collars in pride. But for the nth time I am awe-struck by the power of active and participative listening.

    I read this in an English book. There is a character in the group whom every one likes. But this character is quite listless. He does not know how to utter smart words and all. When another member of the group is asked, “Why do you like him so much? Is he a good conversationalist?”

    The other guy retorts, “No. I have never heard him speak. But buddy, you should see him listening.”

    There is a mistaken notion among many people that to impress some one you should say smart things. I have seen salesmen carrying some quotation books or memorizing some interesting statistics to impress their VIP customers. But all these things backfire. Because our attempt to be smart may bomb on ourselves.

    I know one guy who was taking over as head of a service organisation. The Treasurer wanted to quit but this guy convinced him to stay for one more year.


    That was surely an achievement. But when he thanked the Treasurer for accepting to continue, he wanted to say something very smart. He blurted out,


    “You see Mr.Rakesh, many young members wanted to be treasurers. But I for one always prefer old devils to the newer angels.”
    The Treasurer promptly resigned.

    To think that you can impress people with your smart words is being quite naïve. So how to impress?

    Nothing works like listening. Once I made a cold call on a very tough prospect who wanted to dominate the conversation. I let him have his way uttering “uh-oh”s, “Oh I see”s at the right intervals. He talked for an hour non-stop before letting me go. But in the end we got the order. And he told my friend in a meeting, “Sridhar is a good converstationalist.” Uh-ohs can make you good conversationalist provided you listen.

    There are two types of listening – substantive listening and form listening. I will explain the latter and you will understand the former.

    Rajneesh tells this story. Two Philosophy Professors lost their minds and were committed to the same assylum. Since they were friends and colleagues they were in the same cell. They used to carry out converstations for a long time. The Psychologist observed a strange feature.

    When one professor talks the other would patiently listen. No interruptions, no cutting across, nothing. Then when this person talks the other would listen with rapt attention. In a rare moment of a lucid interval, the Doctor asked a Professor what was happening.

    The Professor said, (in his lucid interval, let me reiterate) “I appear to be silent from the outside. I know the rules of conversation. When one person talks the other person has to be silent. Inside I am chattering, talking and waiting for the right opportunity. I am also organising my thoughts and framing my sentences.

    So that when this fool stops I can start my talk and carry it on for hours.”

    That is Form Listening which most of us do. We stop our talk only as a matter of empty formality. When the other person talks we are just preparing our next line of attack. Just looking for that trap door which will allow us to butt in and do the talking.

    Substance Listening is listening actively, with your ears, head and above all your heart.

    When I told a friend of mine about this Listening thread (the same friend who predicted the poor response for the mental ageing thread in the beginning) the friend added one more dimension to listening.

    One should not only listen to the spoken word; but also the body language, the change of facial expression and the modulation and the intonation of the talk. With our children it is imperative to listen to their body language.

    When the child says that her day in the school was ok, but you find out that her eyes are a cesspool of grief, you should take the clue and gently probe further.

    I have a psychologist friend who tells me that youngsters who are about to kill themselves and youngsters who are in the grip of love leave very glaring, tell-tale signs, with as much clarity as words written on the drawing room wall in Font size 20 with a red crayon. Parents overlook this at their own peril, he warned.

    He quoted the example of a couple who were Doctors. Their only daughter was in the college. This girl fell in love with a wrong person. A worthless cheat, so to say.


    And she left many signs – her grades were coming down fast, she remained gloomy while dining with the parents, she refused to attend any of the parties or marriages to which the parents went, and to cap it all her teacher had been trying to reach them for almost a month without avail.

    One fine morning the girl eloped with her lover carrying all her jewels and a substantial amount of cash. The parents were wailing, “Why this sudden decision?” The Psychologist told me that the decision was not sudden. It was happening over a period of six months and the parents never cared to listen.
     
  3. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Part 3!

    We see a lot of teenagers killing themselves. The Psychologist says that no one does it in the very first attempt. It starts with an exceptionally rude behaviour either at home or outside. The child is now demanding the love and attention of its parents.


    But the parents are not around; they are busy making money or busy socially, either living thousands of miles away from the child or living under the same roof, but have no time to spare.

    The person to whose care the child is committed, the Ayah or the Manager, just reports the rudeness to the parents. The parents in turn promptly abuse their child, at times by phone from afar.

    The first attempt to grab the parents attention has failed. You see the problem is that every child has a sense of pride. It will not say openly, “I want to live with my parents.” Or, “I want more of my parents’ time.” Because such a statement, the child thinks is infra-dig, is beneath her dignity.

    So the child says, “I want my parents” in a different language. Like going on a spending spree, defying the rules, or opposing those in authority. Parents should listen to these glaring signs.

    Finally if nothing works out the child in total frustration kills herself. That is how many teenage-suicides happen.

    One more instance where we have to be extremely alert is while chastening our children. I am not for pussy-footing in this Department. If the child misbehaves you need to chasten him. But it has to be done with extreme love and while you are in an extraordinarily alert state. It is not a good idea to scold the child when you are yourself seething with anger at the childs actions.

    When you scold a child you should watch the childs facial expression, his body language, his eyes and his reaction in general. There is no need for special training; enough if your heart is full of parental love. At one point you will find that the child can bear it no longer.

    Now you have to change your tone, hug the child, and tell her how hurt you are by her actions. The lesson is now driven in with great force.

    I came to know of this tragic case through a friend. The parents had two daughters. One was in the college and was also actively involved in some sports activity.


    The mother, one day, scolded that girl, for spending too much of time on sports, and not studying enough. The daughter wanted to say that she was still in the top five percent in her class and her grades had actually improved over time. And she goes out for sports when there were no exams, and after finishing all her home work.

    The mother would not listen and continued her harangue.The child was in tears, was seething in rage. The mother did not listen to the very loudly spoken body language.

    The mother finished her session and went about their way. The child promptly killed herself the same night.


    Varalotti
     
  4. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    This time also I forgot the order!

    A kutty post to get this latest thread to the top! sridhar
     
  5. Preethi

    Preethi Gold IL'ite

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    Did I listen to you Correctly Varalotti ??

    Dear Varalotti,

    First let me tell you, I feel this is the one of the most interesting article that has come out from you, compared to all the others that I have read in the recent past. (Don't misintrepret that the rest were bad, all others were good, but this is the Best).

    How true, listening is not just merely with ears, it should be done with ears, head and heart...The art of listening is failing very miserably between people generally. Let me admit to you, I am a very very poor listener. U categorised listening into two forms with an example, I think am more suited into the category as quoted in the example. My husband is a very good listener unlike me (he is into advertising in Client Servicing side, so its very imperative that he observes the client's needs with all attention and understand their requirements , over period of careful practice, he has become a good listener and also never once between our discussions, he interferes in between to give his views, he always waits for me to complete my statements and then give his opinion/counsels with a clear mind), But whereas I am not like that, whenever there is any discussion I just barge into the conversation without allowing other person to complete what they have to say (Sad thing, sometimes this quality of mine, reveals itself even at work and client place and sometimes it backfires !)..Now reading your article about listening, I am more conscious of the fact how poor a listener I am. This warning bell coming from you, is a wake-up call to me to change my attitude when it comes to lending my ears (from now on even mind and heart) to conversations ,messages, body languages, from people around.

    It's true Varalotti, parents are at times poor listener's to their children. I think in most cases the children lamenting fails miserably because Parents always feel they are more matured and know what is good for their children more better than them. In the process of over-protecting the child with their over-confidence about their understanding of their kids, that at times, they fail to listen to the simplest needs of the children and deprive them of their rights/desires/passions which is barely realised by them.

    Ur article reminds me of a real-life story, which came in Aval Vikatan eon back, written by a college girl requesting all the parents to give their ears to their children. Her miserable plight due to aftermath of her parents rejection to her desperate cry for help, affected me sooo deep, that I can never forget what happened to her for my lifetime. This girl who was supposedly good at studies, when started to perform bad (in the eyes of her mom and dad), her parents hired a tutor (Young man) to teach her and even allowed him to close her study room to teach her inside without any distractions, such was the trust they had on the tutor. This tutor slowly started taking advantage of their privacy within the closed doors and showed signs of misbehaving and start attacking her verbally, mentally with abusive thoughts and intentions. This girl could bear it no more and complained abt his behaviour to her parents, but the tutor was more smart, he sensed her reactions and gave a picture to her parents that this girl is in love with a boy and thatz causing her to be less attentive in studies. The parents, trusted this teacher with all their heart and didn't even bother to listen to the cries and pleadings of their own daughter about her honesty and this guys malice character,thinking its all their daughter's ploy to divert their attention away from them...the torture for her continued for many days, finally she managed (with all difficulty) to convince her mother to take the parallel phone on the other room when she was on call with this tutor, who was given a pretext that this girl's parents were not in town. The mother was shocked beyond words when she heard all the nasty things this guy was talking to her daughter and then only she realised how true her daughter had been and how false this guy had been to them all along. After the truth was revealed her parents sacked this tutor from their home and then the girl was relieved of all the torture..all ended good, but imagine the turmoil the girl had to face for failing in her attempts to make her parents listen to her plea...

    Hearing this story, tell me Varalotti, who is to be blamed for this ? I will definitely not blame the parents...I felt sorry for this girl's mother and father, intentionally they didn't do this to her, with a goodwill of making their daughter more meritorious, they tried to give her the best of education, which miserably backfired on their daughter's life..The parents didn't believe their daughter because they strongly felt they knew what was best for her, more than her. It never occured to them that their child is grown enough to decide what is best for her. This is just a sample incident that came to my notice, but this is the reality too...Many parent-child relationship fails not because parents don't listen to their children, it fails because whatever they listen from their child, they are not ready (mentally set) to accept that their children can decide for themselves better than them.

    Your post kindled this memory back and made me to share this with you. All said and done, when communication between two individuals fails, that sabotages the relationship and for the communication to fail, poor listening definitely plays a vital role...

    A good listening-provoking post Varalotti...:)

    Love,
    Preethi
     
  6. Pallavi

    Pallavi New IL'ite

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    I am all ears (plus head and heart!!!)

    HI Sridhar,

    Your posts of late are becoming more like personality workshops. LIstening is not as easy as it sounds for sure. Your write-up will surely help me to hone my listening skills. Everytime I read bhagvadgeetha I go through a process of self-appraisal and I gauge on which spiritual level i am placed. In the same way when i read you article, i made some mental points about my listening skills and also how to improve them to be a better listener. You sure are helping us all to become more of social beings. Thanks! That you are a counsellor too, does not surprise me any more!!

    A Standing ovation to you!
     
  7. vidyasarada

    vidyasarada Senior IL'ite

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    Hmmm.........Hmmm.......Hmm....
    yes, i listened very attentively to everything you said, Sridhar, and as usual, it was all very thorough.
    We are all taught to be polite listeners, but some times, we pass off preoccupation as politeness. But if the subject matter ( and also the "object" that is delivering that subject) is interesting enough, most of us are all ears and all eyes, without effort !
    I remember an episode of attention deficit, delightfully narrated by the old hollywood star Diana Dors in her cheeky autobio. which lampoons the airs and attitudes put on by celebrities. At a small teaparty hosted by Dors, she serves some sandwiches, which are admittedly ordinary. But a certain lah-di-dah actress goes into poetics about it and asks Dors what "that special something" is that transforms the dish into veritable manna. Dors acts suitably graceful in accepting the praise and sort of politely mumbles: " oh its just some mayonnaise and pepper and lettuce and a dash of strychnine, dear, nothing much". And the guest coos: Oh, how sweet of you to share your secret recipe dear, i must try it once !"

    VS
     
  8. vidhi

    vidhi Senior IL'ite

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    Dear Varalotti sir

    As usual a very good write up on listening. You have written very well with the examples. I believe lending an ear to someone in need is a service. I end up listening to people most of the time rather than speaking because I am a very poor speaker. Most of my friends like me because I am a good listener. But after reading your article I understood that I have to go a long way to improve my listening skills. Thanks for posting.

    Regards,
    vidhi
     
  9. sudhavnarasimhan

    sudhavnarasimhan Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar,

    That is a very well written piece on an interesting topic.
    I know for sure i have been told that i barge in and my close friends , family always say "LISTEN FIRST", before i jump on the conversation. But of late i have started to be more calm and listen carefully , like u have pointed out, without already forming my answer or ideas etc. I must say, this has made me actually understand the other person better and understand their point of view also better. I have noticed this in many of my conversations now , and i was also trying to analyse this point.(i just thought that i am GROWING up finally and learning to have a mature behaviour!ha ha) But with my family i do listen, always .
    I was just wondering how come you did not give any examples about conversations between husband and wife! it is good that you pointed about children or colleagues, friends. But i feel that this is the most important aspect between husband and wife, and that is why we lose out on the friendship and start moving away from one another. From my side i feel if husbands just take a little time to listen to their wives chatter, be it some normal gossip or boring details of her day's happenings, it will definetely make their relationships better and will help retain the love and intimacy .....:tongue .

    ( Sorry about not being able to partcipate in your other threads, i was away holidying first with family then with friends.....so no time to log in...will catch up soon!)
     
  10. Vandhana

    Vandhana Silver IL'ite

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    Personality Development Skills

    Dear Sridhar,

    All your pieces are honing the personalities of all IL ites in positive way. I just loved this piece on Listening. Yes indeed, the art of Listening is dying out now.... I think even with kids, this is becoming a lost art, with all the extraneous influences they have in their lives now like TV, Video games etc.....
    Am indeed really saddend to read about all the teenage suicides happening just because parents don not give their time to listen to their children. Now a days for most parents, parenting stops with just providing the kids with all the material things in life ..

    Vandhana
     

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