The lost art of listening

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in their parenting bible “How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk” provide excellent ideas in dealing with children. This book is a must for parents, would be parents and almost anybody interested in understanding the nuances of human nature.

In the book the authors come with the following situation:

Situation 1 (as per book) : Your boss asks you to complete a certain task. But because you are busy doing other things you miss the task completely and are the target for your boss’s outburst the next day.

Situation 2 (mine): Imagine it is you come home tired from office. Now assume that your spouse is interested in going out to a party and you are too tired to respond. You can expect your spouse to turn ballistic.

Situation 3 (mine): You are expecting a promotion in office and are on tenterhooks. But you come to realize that you have been passed over and your colleague who is a few years junior to you gets the promotion. You are completely deflated.

You are bound to be hurting in all the above 3 situations. Let us say that you relate this to a friend of yours. You are bound to get one of the following responses, according to the authors

The advice: This response is probably the one you will least interested in. The responses could be “You should have done your boss’s work first” or “You have to make sacrifices for your spouse” or in the 3rd situation “You did not work hard enough”

The philosophical response: This response could be “We are destined to enjoy or suffer. It is our karma”

The barrage of questions response: In this type of response you could face a volley of questions “Why did you ignore the boss’s request” or “did you not know that you had to go out with your spouse”. It could be “Did you make sure your boss knew your achievements etc.”

The empathic response: The listener may be sighing and say that he feels very sorry for your plight and he wished he/she could change your situation.

However, in most cases, you would not be interested in listening to criticism or even constructive suggestions. Most often what we want when we are hurting is a patient ear. Somebody who just listens to us in silence, probably with a faint acknowledgement accompanied  by the  nodding of the head.  The solutions and advice can come later. We just want the pain to subside before we are ready to listen to anything.

In most cases when somebody pours their troubles to you, watch the signals carefully and respond appropriately. It is not necessary to give advice, be philosophical or even empathic. Just acknowledge the suffering by listening to them completely.

Let us resurrect “the lost art of listening.”

Parallels in Hindu & Christian philosophy

It is remarkable that Hindu and Christian philosophies which evolved independently of one another more than 2 millenniums ago have such striking similarities.

1) The Bible maintains that all human beings have a soul behind the material body. The Bible also states that somebody can hurt the body but not the soul which is immortal. According to the Hindu belief behind the body is the unchangeable Atman which is immutable and eternal. In Chapter 2 of the Gita Krishna expounds “That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable Atman.”

2) According to Christian thought is the concept of sin. Based on our actions in this world we will be judged on the ‘day of judgment’ when the good deeds of the person will be weighed against the bad deeds. A virtuous person will enter heaven or the kingdom of God and an evil person will enter Hell. Similarly according to the Mahabharata there is a concept of “swarga” or heaven and “naraga” or hell. Chitragupta is the king who keeps tally of the good acts of the person against the evil acts and sends the person to either swarga or naraga. However the Hindu philosophy differs slightly from Christian thought in that a human being’s stay in swarga or naraga is not permanent and he will have to undergo another rebirth. The concept of rebirth is not there in Biblical thought.

3) In the Bible, in Matthew 7.7 are the words “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. There is a similar saying in the Ramayana which states “If only it would ask, it would tell the truth”.

It is really amazing that these two major religions of the world have such similar ideology.