August 29, 2012

Listening to learn

They say, in order to learn we need to be good listeners and after listening, ask good questions – and ask these for clarification rather than to challenge - for if you don't know about a subject and are intent on learning about it, the objective must be to get clarification and elucidation. And the best way we can be sincere listeners is when we can suspend our assumptions as we hear out another person’s ideas. Assumptions are our already held opinions and views on a subject. If we attach ourselves so strongly to our views on a given subject or concern, we tend to block another’s view from entering our thought process. There is a psychological barrier created, for, given our own assumptions on that topic or concern, we will be always judging the validity of the other views against our pet view, and not giving that external view to be looked at afresh. If both don’t match, we tent to reject the other and find fault, or even become cynical, given our ego’s need to protect its point of view. We don’t even realize that, but that’s what’s happening inside us. What is holding us back is our ego, the pseudo personality or identity that has developed within us as we grew up to be what we are. Our attachment to this identity makes us defensive to anything that challenges it, and so, the opinions of others, even though they may have greater truth than what we may harbor, are rejected – just for the ego to protect itself. Remember, our ego never likes to lose.

In contrast, it is so refreshing to see little children so eager to learn everything that comes their way. They have no preconceived opinions or prejudices to hinder them from learning every day. That is why a child learns so easily and quickly, and adults find so hard to learn new things. A child is not limited by a filled-up mind – filled with opinions and assumptions as we adults are. The child’s mind has the “empty space” that can accommodate the universe. We adults have this capacity too, but we have turned blind to its existence. Whereas in our childhood, our true self kept it open, in our adulthood, our ego slowly shut it up. It is this child-like quality that we lose as we grow into adults, that makes for the hard and harsh and unaccommodating people we often become, demonstrated by the fact that we are averse to other diverse views. And society has perhaps also stereotyped this reticent behavior as being adult behavior. So we act it out and don’t cross the path lest we be called childish, immature, trusting, naïve, innocent or the like. But, unawares, we forfeit that wonderful nature of being a learner always by this very subconscious behavior we have come to accept and live. In contrast, have we not seen people who do accommodate others views, be seen as friendly and caring? And it is not difficult to find in each of our lives, those people towards whom we gravitate, just because they will always listen to us. We love our parents too because they don’t reject us but listen to us.  So why don’t we actively use this God-given gift of life to our advantage even in adult life by never losing the child in us.  

Learning is the platform for development. It is with knowledge and experience that we acquire wisdom that finally helps society to move ahead in what we call development. Listening is the way to imbibe the groundswell of knowledge that fill our lives and will continue to do so. But without a commensurate and receptive mind we can be morphed into a time warp from which no type of development can truly emerge.

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