“You are not paying any attention to what I am saying, just wait for me to finish talking.” Subtle impressions that startle or disappoint at least one of the interlocutors during a common conversation. The art of conversation seems to be getting lost, or losing quality. This is what the most recent book by American journalist Kate Murphy suggests, with articles published in newspapers such as The Times or The Economist, and which became popular for making complex topics accessible, from health and science to technology.
In What You Miss When You're Not Listening (publisher Planeta), her first book, the author dives into the world of listening, living up to António Saramago's famous phrase “If you can look, see. If you can see it, look ”, in Blindness essay. The “blindness”, or the deafness, in this case, may well be the uninterrupted speech in which we are immersed, in the face-to-face or on social networks. Or the omnipresence of sound and urban noise that settles in open spaces, public transport, beaches and gardens and even in the home environment, where part of the free time is spent consuming multimedia content, with or without headphones, oblivious to others who is with us. A normal scenario with side effects that result in an uncomfortable feeling of loneliness, with outlines of an epidemic, in the most interconnected society ever.
Why listening is not enough
Listening goes beyond simply listening to what people say, paying attention to how they do it, as well as to the situation in which they say what they say and the effect it has on listening. In the investigation for the book, Kate interviewed ordinary people and experts, of various ages, races and social strata. To the question “who listens to you?”, Many responded not to feel that someone who listened to them properly, even those who had a partner and a network of friends and colleagues. Others turned to astrologers, hairdressers, therapists and priests if they were going through difficult times. In the end, he concluded that each of us is the sum of what we pay attention to in everyday life. “To hear badly, or not to hear at all, limits the understanding of the world and deprives us of making it better”, it can be read in the work.
“People feel alone for lack of someone to listen to them”, continues the author, referring to results of epidemiological studies that allow us to consider that we are dealing with a public health crisis. Moreover, the relationship between loneliness and heart disease, dementia and loss of immunity is unquestionable. Poor communication, not very intimate and prolonged in time, fosters the perception of isolation, which increases the risk of premature death and whose damage to health is worse than smoking 14 cigarettes a day. In a society that values those who impose themselves the most, maintaining the silence necessary to listen carefully requires not only effort but is synonymous with being left behind. Despite being so devalued socially, this sense connects us to life, more than any other: hearing begins in the womb and is the last to be lost, at the door of death. In between, neuroscience studies suggest that children with inattentive or overly invasive parents are more likely to have difficulties in their social and intimate relationships.
A successful relationship implies knowing how to listen
The use of magnetic resonances has allowed us to ascertain what is going on in the brain in terms of processing when we listen carefully. A pioneer in this area, researcher Ralph Nichols discovered the reason why many of us stop being aware during an interaction: mental dispersion and the inability to be present, which lead to him passing by important information and, often, misunderstandings and missed opportunities. When they realize, it is already late.
In this book, the author stresses that the proliferation of courses and tips to better communicate and make oneself heard has a basic problem: it neglects the virtues of listening, a key factor in understanding people's motivations, building cooperative and productive relationships and discard those that may be harmful to us.
A good example of how the “addiction” of circumstantial conversations and endless monologues – which mask the need to appear important or are a defense that prevents the presence of the other, that is unknown and generates insecurity – is that of Dick Bass, a of the real stories presented in the book. During a flight, the son of a Texas oil baron, famous for his mountaineering expeditions, spent time talking to the passenger next door to tell him about his exploits. At the time of landing, he asked her name. The passenger replied: «I am Neil Armstrong. Nice to meet you.” Conclusion: the saying “silence is golden, the word is silver”, validated however by science, is an exercise in wisdom. Emotional intelligence.
The content Stop, focus and listen: the power of listening and what it does for you appears first in Vision.