Editorial June

Sometimes we find ourselves at a loss for words and thoughts. Then, a short WhatsApp from a dear friend with the following words of Stephen R Covey: “The biggest communication problem is that we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply.”

I took a few moments to reflect on these words, asking myself the question: “Am I one of those people who listen or do I feel the need to be heard?” I would imagine if you ask your friends or loved ones, the answer to the question might surprise you, as we often do not perceive ourselves in the same manner others witness us. I am not sure whether it is a good quality or an indifferent one. What I do believe is that circumstances play a role in every situation.

It would be much easier for active engagement, empathy, and patience when the situation is non-threatening.  Where there is room to become immersed in the other person’s perspective, seeking to grasp the underlying emotions, intentions, and context behind their words. Where the communicator is someone you hold in high regard and where there is mutual respect.

Should you find yourself emotionally attached or feel threatened by the situation, I would imagine a new set of rules come into play, were a reactive mode of listening leads to misunderstandings, conflicts, and shallow interactions. Our responses become less thoughtful and more impulsive, often driven by the need to assert our own viewpoints or defend our positions.

The fact that we live in a fast-paced world driven by instant gratification and constant connectivity, the emphasis on quick responses and immediate feedback has become the norm. Society often supports assertiveness and outspokenness, leaving little room for context or understanding.

So, maybe being at a loss for words or thoughts during communication might not be so awful as we tend to think. The question is: “Rather than letting the gap be filled with personal desires, can we fill it by fine-tuning our listening skills first, giving rise to cultivating empathy and valuing silence as a space for reflection?”