There is one thing, above all else, that I always do my best not to waste. Time.
When someone speaks to me, they are not just giving me their energy, and information and voice.
They are giving me their time.
Each day we are given only 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. So when someone decides to spend any of those minutes with me, in any way, I do my best to give them my full attention, and listen to what they are saying. They deserve that. By investing that part of their day in me I feel it is, to put it simply, the only respectable thing to do, and I would hope that others would do the same for me. It is the very corner stone of communication, not just letting the information pass through my ears, but trying to actively listen to whatever is coming my way. When you truly listen to someone you get a sense of more than just what they say, but why they’ve said it, and where they may be coming from. Even better, if you don’t understand it, you can ask. You can learn about people by ways of true communication and thereby earn yourself the most beautiful of all knowledge. Perspective.
Ironically this same point is brought up by Wesley Snipes in the (awesome) movie “White Men Can’t Jump” there's a big difference between listening to somebody, and hearing them. The movie offers a view into the change that something as simple as perspective can make in how we view others lives, as well as our own.
We hear people talk all day long. We hear other conversations going on around us, we hear the sounds of traffic and construction. We hear life, all day, every day. But how often do we listen?
“Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning.”
We’ve found ourselves living in a time where the constant overstimulation of our brains, from more and more easily accessible outside sources, has allowed us to separate from each other as individuals. We seem to want constantly to be heard, but without the necessity of being listened to. We ask only that our voice is one of the chorus, while forgetting the goal of a chorus is to speak as one. So that no single individual voice may be distinctly heard.
Are we pushing so hard to become a part of the chorus that in turn we’re losing, not only the power of our own voices, but the power to listen to others as well? So many opinions striking out of synch but at each other, hidden behind screens and never having to truly listen to another opinion. No perspective is offered or accepted. It becomes short form actions and responses in 140 characters or less. If you don’t like it, swipe past it. Not only do we not need to listen, if we choose to we don’t even have to hear.
We are more able to connect with each other than at any time in human history, and yet if you look around yourself you’ll see kids with headphones in at dinner while parents check their phones for updates. Groups of friends walking together and none experiencing each other nor the world around them. Just headphones drowning out the boredom of the surrounding world. Are we allowing the overstimulation of our senses by our screens to desensitize us to the simple beauty of communication that surrounds us? The constant torrent of information overwhelms even the most diligent amongst us from time to time, until we remember to set the screen down and look to the source of all the opinions. Other people.
There is something that other people do that screens can never do. They give us time. Our screens can only take it.
Now I am certainly not ignoring the beautiful advances and advantages that technology has afforded us by way of connection services like Skype, FaceTime, video messaging and many others. But I am offering the perspective of moderation. Allowing us to look up and step away from the screen. To engage in one on one conversations. To look into someones eyes and exchange with them the one thing you can’t get back once you give it… your time.