Why we all need to be better listeners

In today's world, it's easy to feel disconnected from others. Violet, 17, explains why we all need to make time for face-to-face chats and learn to be better listeners.

You’d be much better off talking to a pet than another person if you simply need to be heard: dogs are able to hear nearly twice as well as humans. But being a good listener means much more than hearing well. Listening requires something else: the empathy and the interaction that only you can provide.

This is relevant for everyone. In today’s world - in which social media limits our face-to-face contact – we may sometimes feel not very connected with other people. And it becomes more of an issue when we have something troubling us, because the most common - and most dangerous - thing we do is to keep it to ourselves. From my own experience I know that, however tempting it may be and however strong you are, it is too much to expect yourself to go through everything alone.

As a listener you play an active role - you aren't just a pair of ears.

So when someone has something they need to talk about it is our duty to be good listeners - not only to be there for them, but to create more meaningful relationships for ourselves. There is great value in getting out of our comfort zone and having real conversations in which we can actively engage with other people. By listening and considering their points of view, we develop our own opinions and identities as a result.

Each conversation, then, is an investment - and you should devote yourself and your time to it. This means giving whoever you’re speaking to the time and space to discover and articulate what they are feeling. It might be helpful to think of your conversation as a way to help the person you’re speaking to make sense of all the voices and thoughts whirring around inside their head. The only difficulty, of course, is that you can’t hear these thoughts. But you should be mindful that they are there, and that what may look like silence and stillness to you represents a frenzied navigation through a maze of thoughts, criticisms and concerns for your friend. But you can help by guiding them through that maze and bringing them back to reality.

Whoever is speaking to you has chosen you specifically for what you offer in return.

As a listener you play an active role - you aren’t just a pair of ears. You are the whole human being and whoever is speaking to you has chosen you specifically for what you offer in return. Conversations are mutual by nature, and a conversation with you should be completely different to a conversation with somebody else, so don’t be afraid to contribute. Your speaker has chosen you because they trust you, and that’s a powerful connection that you can return by actually talking with them, and helping them to feel less strange and less alone.

But ultimately, being a good listener just means being a good friend, and you’re probably an expert at that.

Author: Violet, 17

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