In this blog for National Mentoring Day 2017, one of our students, Mark Cutliffe, considers the importance of listening. Mark is currently a student on GWLAD’s Coaching and Mentoring module studying towards a Masters in Professional Practice. Following many years working with his own businesses and local charities he is seeking to develop coaching and mentoring practices in order to help others. Mark is creative and involved with a number of projects currently such as, ‘One Heart Drummers’ an organisation that provides drum circle experiences and team building sessions, as a trustee at the St Madoc Centre on Gower and supporting many local organisations. Along with studying at the University, Mark is exploring the relationship between creativity, the natural world and coaching and mentoring to evaluate the benefits of various combinations and develop interlinking projects.
A Turkish proverb says, “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.” Many days of my life are spent working with people and I think it’s fair to say, there is a lot of silver! But what if we chose gold? How would our world look if we really started to listen to each other? Not just hearing the sound that can be produced, especially from those with megaphone mouths, but really listening to the words, the heart, the passions and stories that people carry?
Even in war, jamming communications is a valid tactic to wreck an enemies attempts to advance men, machinery and co-ordinate attacks. Yet today we so often allow a hundred and one incursions into our communication lines, even though our modern technological world has more means than ever to keep in contact. We ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ But could at least a part of the answer be, that nobody is listening properly?
Meanwhile, the whole world is shouting. It can appear that those who shout loudest often get heard however those who are shouting loudest sometimes have the least to say. Advertising is designed to grab your attention, whether that is on packaging, shop fronts or TV and radio ads. Everything is aimed at being catchy and stick in your head while a walk through a supermarket is like an assault on your eyes and minds.
Years ago I went into a music-less pub and had to leave after ten minutes as the alcohol-fuelled conversations got louder and louder as everyone was competing to be heard. My brain felt scrambled and on reflection, our hectic world does nothing to aid anything more than superficial thought and conversations at a deeper level. We tread water relationally attempting to carve out times to connect. Surely it should be the other way around and out of those deeper connections, the rest of our world should flow?
Thoreau wrote, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” How would our closest relationships look if we listened more? Our friendships, work situations and society? Just to throw in a juxtaposed question, what if they also listened back?
What would it do in our own hearts if we felt really listened to? For a start, we wouldn’t have to work so hard to get our point across. How would it affect our life if those who have some level of power over us had the heart and time to hear and really listened? In a world where we can instantly speak to someone on the other side of the world, how can it be that an elderly man down the road can feel so lonely and a person feel alone in a crowded room?
Some time ago, I sat a bus stop and with fifteen minutes before a bus was due, though it would be nice to actually try and communicate with another human rather than heading into a my-twit-face media cocoon on my mobile. I choked out a ‘hello’, that’s all, to an elderly gent. What proceeded was a gently spoken yet profound conversation about the horrors that he had seen in the Second World War. What he told me, still sits in my mind. A hero? Sure, but one who carries a story without many people to tell that story too.
I think I would like more gold in my life! I recently had a great session at the business campus with a focus on listening skills and that got me thinking, plotting. I intend to experiment with the power of listening. Maybe I can’t just change the world, but perhaps I can make a world of difference to one other person. What if we look to change ourselves, and go mining for gold? What if we can learn to listen?
Mentoring and Coaching Student (GWLAD)