Listen up! The Importance of Listening

It was my freshman year in high school. I was sitting at a table during some study time when a girl that worked for the yearbook asked if she could interview me. I agreed, happy to share my thoughts on any subject.

“What do you carry in your purse?” she asked.

I explained to her that not only did I not carry a purse, I did not even own one. I was just not that kind of girl, especially at that time.

“Okay, well if you did have a purse what would you have in it?” she asked, apparently not content in taking no for an answer.

I made a vague comment about carrying my phone or wallet despite the fact that they both fit in my pocket.

After a few months the yearbook came out in print and I got my copy. I flipped to where my quote was from that interview and read what she had written. It went something like this:

“I would probably be such a mess without my purse,” freshman Caitlin McBride said. “I keep everything in there–my phone, lip gloss, my planner. I would definitely be so disorganized without it.”

I was pretty livid. She completely ignored everything I said to her during the interview. She did not listen at all and because of that, she presented me like some ditzy freshman girl; the kind of person that I was not and did not want to be.

When I became editor in chief of the yearbook during my senior year, I always taught this example to my writers. I showed them how important it was to listen during an interview, and how important listening was to me.

Listening it is a skill that is never taught to us, yet we use it every day. It is essential in school, in work, in relationships–yet we often overlook it. The truth of the matter is that communication is two-sided. Everyone wants to talk, but that is only one side of the coin. Without someone to recieve that information, all the power that words hold would be lost.

While this is a simple enough idea, there is a huge problem putting it into practice. Many do not seem to understand that there is a huge difference between hearing someone speak and actually listening to what they have to say.

Words are powerful and everyone has a story to tell. While we tend to rely on short-fed blurbs of information fed to us online or by phone, there is an entire labyrinth of underlying detail, feeling, and emotion behind every story. We seem to forget that words are not static; they all represent something. They represent ideas, feelings, experiences; they represent people in the entirety of their being. The subtleties of our language are as much a defining part of our personality than any physical trait.

So the next time someone has something to tell you, don’t just hear it, listen.