Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rack! Are you listening?

"Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery."
- Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist and author

Dr. Brothers is an oddball at the best of times. She became a household name decades ago when it was found that she and other contestants on a quiz show cheated (were given answers before the show began).

She's right and she's wrong, I think. I disagree that listening is a form of flattery. However, my opinion on this particular matter may not be worth much because I think of flattery as lying.

She is right about the value of listening. People like others who will listen to them.

Listening is a way to make a friend, provided that the speaker doesn't take advantage, of course. Listening is a way to learn, especially about matters or points of view that are not readily available from other sources.

Listening is a way to grow. Listening is one of the main tools of learning for young children, an important path by which they learn what the world they are growing into is like.

However, there is a second part to learning by listening or to making a friend by listening. The speaker must also agree to give the listener his or her due time to speak and be listened to. Without that opportunity to reply or to deliver our own position on a topic, we lose interest in the speaker and the topic.

That's why some children misbehave in class. They reach their limit of what they can take in by listening and become as frustrated as a trussed-up pig because they have energy they can no longer release by simply listening. Listening is energy intensive, but once the limit is reached what follows becomes a form of psychologist torture.

Listening is a matter of respect. Listening is a sign of respect as we sometimes listen to what someone has to say simply because we feel we owe them that much respect.

The problem arises when the respect shown to someone else is not returned.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show respect by listening back.
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