May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We began to notice recently that when we say things in a group, or even sometimes on a one-to-one basis, people seem to be tuned out—or, more bluntly, not listening. Nina actually experimented with this notion, as we had discussed it many times. She was standing telling someone she knew well about an experience she had had, and then stopped speaking in the middle of a sentence. There was absolutely no reaction; the reason being that the person was never listening to her to begin with. The person she was speaking with was so busy looking at everything around her, that she never even tried to hear what Nina was saying.

If it wasn’t sort of comical, it would be extremely sad. However, it did make Nina feel bad because she said that she sees this happening more and more frequently. People tend to stop listening unless they feel that something is being said that would interest them or concurs with what they are saying. Suddenly, the feeling that our opinions and ideas are no longer considered worthy of consideration has jolted us into reality. As we age, younger people accept years of wisdom as outdated expertise. Some listen patiently while most absolutely pay no attention.

Then again, we have noticed over the years the number of times that when people meet, they greet each other by asking how they are, and by the time one person answers the other person is walking down the street. What if they had answered, “I am really very down, my mother is very sick.” Part of the problem is that we are all rushing everywhere. We spend no time just listening. The other is that many are polite without the anticipation of having to participate in any type of a conversation.

How does one learn to change his or her listening habits? First and foremost, while engaging in conversation with someone, utmost concentration should be given to that person alone. For instance, while standing outside of shul on Shabbos morning, the opportunity arises to socialize with many. Once engaged in a conversation with one person we must try not to keep looking around to see if we are missing out on what is going on somewhere else or who another person is talking to.

Secondly, it seems logical not to ask someone’s advice if one is not interested in hearing it. “Where do you think I should stay in Montreal?” “There are some hotels that we highly recommend.” “Oh, so and so told me that those are total dives and infested with bed bugs.”

“Can you recommend a good cardiologist?… Oh that guy, we heard that his bedside manner is atrocious.” How about instead saying “Thanks so much, I’ll consider him”?

We all have feelings and they are easily affected by behavior shown to us that in many instances is inadvertent. People have the need to have attention shown to them. Everyone craves it in different ways. One way to meet that need would certainly be to stop and listen only to one person at a time. Again back to the rushing phenomenon: We need to slow down and give each other sincere time, even if it is only for 30 seconds. There are those who are standing in a group and feeling lonely and dejected. By asking them how they are and then actually listening, you might change their awful day into a glorious one.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

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