The importance of listening

In an age where everyone is fighting to be heard many forget the importance of listening, which is vital for restoring and maintaining relationships.

It is impossible to resolve a problem if you haven’t grasped what it is. As a disabled person I am almost amused at the lengths people will go to, to do anything but listen to me – deciding what I want for themselves even if it contradicts what I said.

There are many times I find people trying to help me, or worse, getting others to help me, regardless that I just said I didn’t need help.

Recently I found myself walking into a restaurant and telling a guy who asked (politely) that I didn’t need help only to find him fetch three members of staff to ‘help me’. Obviously there was a good deal of confusion when the staff anxiously asked if I was OK and I replied a very blasé “Yes, fine thanks”, and it took me a while to figure out what had happened. When I realised I felt guilty I seemed somewhat short with the staff that came out to check on me after they had been told to, yet this is an example of what often happens when parties don’t listen.

Plus, posting blogs and videos online I often find myself more irritated at irrelevant comments than [conventionally] abusive ones. After posting a blog or a video I’ve worked hard at the response “Hi, how r u?”

Instantly shows a disinterest in the content and while this isn’t explicitly abusive I do find it something less than a compliment. It can be a struggle to know how to respond to such a comment as it is not abrasive but it does seem disingenuous.

These highlight an interesting circumstance, when a party is annoyed at one’s implicit behaviour as the one not listening could easily argue they are not being rude. However, this is why the role of listening is at the core of Restorative Approaches as we realise from instances like these that understanding the other’s needs is essential to maintaining good relationships.