Tenet the Fourth: MSU PR student Sarah Sabo discusses the difference between hearing and listening

From Sarah Sabo (Springfield, MO)

A relatively new trend in online writing that has become instantly accessible to anyone with a wireless connection is the list. Scroll through Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat and you can find 10 things successful people do, (which almost implies that the person reading is not successful in their own reality), six ways to become more attractive or 25 things all single women have in common.

What about these “all-knowing” lists so easily entices us to keep scrolling until point number 42 is made? My theory is this. Something persuades us that all our previous knowledge obviously has failed us up to the present, because we do not have what the list is telling us to achieve. The bullet points made in an article taking 17 seconds to forget, is now the best way to build a better version of ourselves. While a few of the lists may actually be insightful and helpful, I believe they also take away an element of self-reliance from readers. If we are not any of the things deemed “successful” or “attractive”, we have no chance unless we conform. Conformation implies behaving according to socially established values, altering yourself to become accepted.

What if a list focused on positive attributes that help make societal progress through all having the opportunity to share their points of view, instead of emphasizing social inadequacy? What if we transformed? Transformation implies making a thorough change in form, appearance and character.

One solution is already in existence. Be Civil Be Heard is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote increase effective engagement in Springfield and Greene County by creating a more welcoming and respectful environment where all people’s views are encouraged and heard.”

Civility is much more than being politically correct. It is showing regard for other’s opinions by being kind, well-mannered, and respectful in any situation, regardless of whether you agree with someone’s thoughts. There are many ways to conduct ourselves in a manner that promotes civility, while holding true to our own values. 10 tenants Be Civil Be Heard has established seek to help improve any situation, not just one involving a disagreement.

  1. Be Attentive.

  2. Acknowledge Others.

  3. Be Inclusive.

  4. Listen.

  5. Respect Other Views.

  6. Speak with Courage.

  7. Act with Compassion.

  8. Give and Accept Constructive Feedback.

  9. Treat Your Environment.

  10. Be Accountable.

Each of these actions require effort and selflessness, which is a hard thing to do in a society that preaches individualism and self-improvement. I struggle with it, everyone struggles with dying to themselves. Looking at this list, there is one attribute that I believe is the basis of growing in civility. Listening. Be Civil Be Heard describes listening as seeking to understand people by concentrating what they say.

There is a distinct difference between the actions of hearing and listening. To hear requires no work. It is a choice if someone retains information presented to them. Hearing is what we do when we are only thinking of a point to refute someone else. Hearing is almost selfish. To help differentiate between the two, here is a visual aid.

While simply not listening to someone might not be as blatant as Ross’s physical reaction, not allowing ourselves to focus on the message being presented is just as disrespectful. Listening is humble. When we listen, we respect the opinion of others enough to not think so highly of our own views. Famed author Henry David Thoreax thought, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

There are many ways to practice becoming a better listener. One way is to learn what it means to become an active listener. To actively listen, use nonverbal ques, positive reinforcement, ask for clarification and summarize to show genuine interest. This clip from the television show “Everybody Loves Raymond” demonstrates the positive results of active listening.

We can all strive to be better listeners. I challenge you to focus on engaging in active listening with at least one conversation this week and comment back on the difference you see your interactions.