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Do You Hear Me?

Do You Hear Me?

The Lost Art of Listening


Here's an experiment to try the next time you meet someone—it could be an annoying telemarketer over the phone or a neighbor in the local grocery store.

As he mechanically and politely utters his greeting of, "Hi, how are you?" instead of responding with the standard, "good, thanks," try something different. Answer something totally strange and unbelievable. Try this, "Great, my monkey just ate its banana," or "Good, the skies are covered with gold." The only caveat is that your tone, body language and facial expression must reflect nothing out of the ordinary.

I'm curious how many people would actually notice! Would they continue their mindless dialogue, "Oh, that's nice," or would they just nod perfunctorily as they continue on their hurried way? How many would actually hear you?

Many educators nowadays lament the lost art of communication. Some claim that with the popularity of Instant Messaging, chat and e-mails, our children are losing out on the richness of expression, the nuances and variations of vocabulary and the beauty of creative writing.

But maybe our dismal state of communication stems from our lost art of listening, without which real communication can never occur.

In your mind's eye, think of someone whom you consider an exemplar teacher, mentor, advisor, or even just a really good friend. Chances are that along with his or her other admirable qualities—like wisdom, kindness, charisma and a generous spirit—high on the list will be the ability to truly listen.

Real listening means the ability to focus entirely on others and on their issues, with an open mind and heart.

It doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with them. But it does mean the ability to hear things from their vantage point, and to understand how they see life.

Only someone who is able to appreciate where another is coming from can help him to move from where he is to a more enriched perspective.

Yet how often do we neglect to listen? How often do we respond to our children, our spouses or those important to us with auto-responses, without ever really hearing them? Sensing that they haven't been heard, it's no wonder that our children or spouse will continue to complain/request/nudge/nag, over and over, in the hope that they will finally be listened to. The nudging eventually does stop, but only once they have given up on ever being heard, as the lines of communication close and die.

In Judaism, one of the most fundamental statements of belief is the declaration of the Shema—"Listen, O Israel, G‑d is our G‑d; G‑d is one."

Look closely at the words. It doesn't say to "proclaim" or "declare" G‑d's unity, but rather "listen."

Because listening is an intense experience involving perceiving, deeply thinking about and internalizing. It's also a transformative act, one that forges a strong bond between the speaker and listener.

The next time someone whom you consider important to your life speaks to you, treat him with the respect that he deserves.

Stop, focus and really listen. You might just be surprised at the whole new awareness that opens before you.

And if you do try this experiment with a telemarketer or a neighbor, I'd be curious to hear your results…

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Meira via November 28, 2008

Value of a word I like your idea with such kind of response for "How are you?" We need clean stereotypes out of our mind from time to time and there is nothing better than humor, even if it has few drops of sarcasm there.
It's interesting, that as a new comer in America I couldn't accustom for this type of greeting, and even now try to avoid saying it, because we have to mean what we say, otherwise the words lose their value. Reply

Anonymous Kobe, Japan November 26, 2008

do you hear me? Listening is a lost art when I look at people around me. People generally like to hear their own voices and give their own opinions without even noticing whether others are really listening or not.
I love to listen and get very frustrated when someone else keeps on steering the story into a q&a instead of letting it flow! In the past stories were told from one generation to another...maybe its time this revive again! I even see advertisements on tv repeat two to three times in one slot!!! They probably think that nobody is listening anyway so...let's give it a try, maybe the message will go in during one of the repetitions! Reply

Anonymous November 26, 2008

lost are of listening believe me, and on many occasions i've tried your exact thing to remember....these people are on the other end FOR ONLY ONE get their msg across.....they feel that well done is better than well said....

i'd give anything to just "jog" one....JUST ONCE!!!!! Reply

Anonymous November 26, 2008

not good experiment I usually love your articles and your advice but words have power and should be used sparingly and with meaning. Yes humor is good but frivolity is a waste. We are only given so many words per lifetime so you don't want to waste them on monkey bananas. If your point is to break past mechanical banter, you can coverse on something real. Reply

Anonymous staten island, ny November 25, 2008

Interesteing... Number of years ago, I had a math professor who pointed our attention to "Hi, how are you?" So as an experiment ever since, when being asked that question I reply with "Do you really care?!" Most of the people at that situation are shocked, b/c then we go into the topic of communication and how we, as people, lack it.
Seeing this article "Do you hear me?" reminded me of all of those time and reaffirmed my beliefs of lack of communication that we all possess. Reply

Yaakov Yehudah Becerra Rodríguez Lima, Perú November 25, 2008

ShaKoach!!!!!!!! It was a great thought and hopefuly we will all take it to practice as the Rebbe........Thank you for all and continue the great job.

PaNet E. November 25, 2008

Experiment and practice I love this funny idea! :)

My hobbie and source of living now is making other people happy by making them to believe that they are involved in very serius and deep story and only their help such as giving me money will put everything in their place, and complete this fantastic story in happy end.

This article makes me to go deeper in analyzing different cultures. In my mind strikes russian one. If you will ask russian man/woman in common store "Hi, how are you?", be prepared to listen the whole story of his/her life from very beginning in details with good and bad things, and in things wich could be in different situation and choices.

Asking more advanced public often makes people to make jokes and as ussuall you will be supplied with good dose of humor.

Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the author of Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman and four other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.
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