A class in music appreciation was asked the difference between listening and hearing. At first there was no response. Finally, a hand went up and a youngster offered this solution: Listening is wanting to hear. The golden rule of friendship is to listen to others as you would have them listen to you. There is no greater love than a sympathetic ear , and and some empathy. Listening is a rare happening among human beings especially in these days of gadgets and phone pressing. You cannot listen to the words another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance or with impressing the other, or are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other person stops talking, or are debating about whether what is being said is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matters have their place, yes but only after listening to the word just as it is being said.

Real communication happens only when we feel safe with the other person.

Empathy involves understanding another's, mind, and spirit including their motives, background and feelings. The more empathy we have for others, the more we come to appreciate who they are. To gain empathy for others, we must listen to them with our eyes and hearts as well as our ears. But most people do not listen with the intent to understand, rather they listen with the intent to reply. They are busy filtering everything being said by another through their own perspective rather than trying to understand where another person is coming from.

My In-laws had returned from a stressful drive from Lagos down to Abuja. My mother-in-law told me how many times the car broke down as a result of bad roads and the struggle to get fuel at some filling stations with young kids getting car sick and throwing up without warning. She narrated the near fatal accident they witnessed along Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the worst of it all someone (not a policeman) trying to take pictures with a phone rather than rush to help the victims.

My day too had been really terrible, down with malaria/typhoid and having to attend to kids school runs and take care of the home all alone. When she narrated her road travel experiences, I was about to also say how bad my day had been when luckily, someone knocked on the door and I stopped talking. Later, when she was leaving, I could see she felt some relief and was grateful for my listening ear as she added "Thank you for listening to me" Then she said "but thank you most of all for not adding to my stress with your own sad story as I can see you not looking well.  Thank you, your listening without looking at the phone, just made me feel way better"


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