I spent Monday afternoon with my friend, Simon. We watched the film, Wild. It was pretty fucking awesome and made me want to don a pair of hiking boots and walk 3000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Don’t you just love it when a film moves you in that way?
We get a lot of stares when we walk into the cinema. I guess people wonder how a guy who is blind and wearing hearing aids manages to watch and hear a film.
You know how? He listens.
Intently. Leaning forward. Perched-on-the-edge-of-his-seat kind of listening.
I asked him exactly how he ‘watches’ a film, how he knows the difference between scenes, how he understands the context and the characters, beyond the words being said.
His reply? “Listening is not about whether you can hear more or less, it’s about understanding your, and the other person’s world.”
It made me think about the way that I listen and have listened. To the times when I am sat with a friend, or my dad, or my partner or my niece. And just how often I AM listening, although not to what is actually being said, but to what I want them to say or where I think the conversation should go next. Or, or, or! I just cannot wait to say my bit! And so I open my mouth and jig around in my chair, almost willing them to finish what they’re saying so that I can start talking.
This is not listening. It really isn’t.
Real listening is different. It feels different. It sounds different. It is different.
Real listening is not looking over the shoulder of the person.
Real listening is not scrolling through your Twitter feed or checking your emails when there is a human being in front of you who has something to say.
Real listening is not steering the conversation to things that you want to talk about.
Real listening is not glazed eyes and stifled yawns and a nod of the head every now and then.
Real listening is, like Simon said, understanding your own world enough to understand the other person’s world. A world where perception and perspective and opinion and thoughts might be wildly similar or wildly different to yours. A world where you understand, not from a place of knowing, but from a place of wanting to know.
If you want to know? You’ll listen in.
And if you don’t want to know?