What does it mean to listen? Does it mean that we assume what the other person has to say but only hear what we want to? Or, does it imply that we only pretend to listen intently but all the while are simply waiting for him/her to finish speaking so we may exert our own thoughts as those that are true and right?
The real truth is that no matter to whom we speak whether that is a family member, or a co-worker, or a passing acquaintance, there is some value in what they have to say. However, any value to be found cannot be determined if we are prone to predetermine its worth because of who they are or from whence they came. Nor, can we assume that value lies only in words and thoughts spoken that agree with what we think or speak. To this end, words and thoughts expressed have value only for those who genuinely know how to listen. So, in relation to this thought, one might argue that everyone knows how to listen so this point is trite. But, this is not so.
Many people you speak to may hear superficially in that they do not give their full attention to words, emotional expression, and body language conveyed by another. To listen fully means to digest, evaluate, understand and formulate the main idea or ideas. This process, then, allows each person to weigh what is being stated or expressed devoid of any preconceived notions or prejudices. If this is what is meant by listening, then many of us continue to fall short of what it means to actively listen. That is to say, listening is not a passive notion but is an active notion that takes concentration and focus.
As Strickland Gillilabn notes, even amidst some less than well-formed thoughts and words comes forth some grains of truth and worth. After all, where does it state that the listener has all the answers, all the truth, and all the right ideas? It is not stated nor is it correct. Life never culminates, at any point, where one person knows everything of value, has heard it all, or has experienced so much detail in life that there never is a need for additional clarification or ideas or thoughts. Within each person's life experiences, there is value. There are seeds of some things new that are better, more efficient, or worth tweaking for the betterment of all.
Thus, this short poem, by Strickland Gillilan, is a reminder we can always learn something if we actively listen rather than tuning out.
No man is wholly foolish, just as none is wholly wise;
The world has precious few extremes, you'll find if you'll examine.
The man who's partly deaf, you'll note, has extra useful eyes
This "wholly helpless" notion is the plainest sort of gammon.
You hear a fellow work his mouth from morning's break till night,
You're sure he's saying nothing, you condemn him without ruth.
But listen patiently to him his chatter is a fright,
But 'mid the rubbish he emits you'll find some grains of truth.
There's none so big a fool but that he knows some things that you
Or even I could scarce find out in all our life or longer.
There's none so wise but if you probe his depths an hour or two,
You'll see a lot of little points on which he might be stronger.
So you, though you be foolish yes, and I, though I be wise!
Had best leave off in later years the rashness of our youth
And learn to listen even when the pinhead's spindrift flies
Amid the chaff his voice gives forth will be some grains of truth.