I am sitting in a meeting, and the presenters have begun to speak. The topic, one chosen for its pertinence to all in attendance, should be enough to captivate the audience and compel the listening group to lend an ear attentively. We are being financially paid, by the way, to pay attention. One quick glance around the room, and the truth would be told. Sadly, the talk these specialists will give today is not enough to keep even the rule-sticklers from hiding a yawn. It is not really the fault of the experts giving the presentation. They have a lot to contend with, what with all the gadgets that are being flashed about: SMART phones, iphones, ipads, ipod touch’s, Blackberrys, and lest we forget, the good old-fashioned pencil for doodling.
Not to mention the conversations going on between others as off-shoots from all of the above. Is it any wonder we are unable to focus our attention on a spoken lecture, one that it is devoid of technological trappings and lacking the excitement factor of a good old-fashioned conversation? And furthermore, even if our very careers depended on listening to a forty-five minute spiel, I wonder how many of us would be dead before the half-way point was reached?
I am shocked, embarrassed and dare I say annoyed at the lack of respect we show and deference we pay to those given the task of speaking in public. Paid or voluntary, it matters not. Neither does the size or importance of the venue seem to make a difference either. Whether the smallest of meetings to the largest of gatherings, people don’t know how to stop what they are doing and listen. We don’t know how to keep quiet longer than the time it takes to say (quite honestly), “Would you just shut up!”
I have a major beef with any and all who have the nerve to make a racket while another human being is speaking. As a teacher, I work very hard with my students on creating habits that help us to not interrupt when anyone has been given the floor for talking. I want them to learn that there is value in listening and in being heard. We don’t seem to have a problem with speaking, it’s the listening part of the equation that is getting the bum rap. Furthermore, if we as adults cannot show one another the same respect and deference that we expect the younger generation to show, what hope is there for them?
The art of listening well, as a time- honored craft, is becoming obsolete.
I was talking to someone today about a church service she had attended Sunday morning. She spoke of a leader in the service who got up on stage and did a fair chunk of talking/lecturing to the congregation before sitting down to “listen” to the sermon. I use the word “listen” very loosely. This woman ended up sitting directly behind my friend, which would have been fine if not for the following.
Almost as soon as she sat in her chair, she began to loudly whisper to her husband and proceeded to talk the entire sermon. She spoke in such a loud whisper that my friend was able to catch bits and pieces of the conversation only to discover that she was actually poking fun at some of the seniors in the church. My friend was beyond annoyed by the distraction this woman posed to her ability to hear the minister delivering his sermon, but matters were made worse when the woman got up at the end of the service and continued to lead the prelude music to end the service. From the front of the church. And she did so as if she had done nothing wrong from the back of the church!
Are you kidding me? Are people really that self-consumed and full of importance that they cannot give the deference to another human being that they would also expect for themselves? I may be old-fashioned in that I tend not to carry cell phones around with me everywhere I go. I actually own and carry a SMART phone in my purse, I have bought two of my children an ipod touch and my husband and I frequently use our laptop away from home. But, when another human being is speaking to me, particularly when it is a public venue (we can of course make allowances for when we are at home), I still feel it is important to give that person my utmost of attention and respect. And I try to make a practice of not allowing technology to interfere with my listening.
If that makes me crazy, commit me now! But at the very least, listen attentively to me rant as I make my way there. If it’s not too much to ask!