“The older I get, the more I see reasons to speak less and listen more”– Ololade Ajekigbe
One of the major ways through which I conserve energy is by saying very little. The day I divulged this piece of information to my friend, she laughed and shook her head in that Lolade-and-some-of-her-unconventional-ways-again manner. Yet it was true, and is likely to remain true for a very long time. Sometimes, I would have some “hot gist” for a close friend, but when I remember the amount of time and energy it would require to give them a detailed account of what happened, I would put off recounting my story till a later time. I just find that I am one who would rather listen than talk, unless of course I am in a really chatty mood, or have something absolutely important to contribute to a discourse.The desire to be heard is a valid human need. In our homes, offices, group meetings, girls night out gatherings and in fact, anywhere you can find at least two people, there’s almost always a silent struggle to be heard. People talking at the same time, someone interjecting with their point of view before another has had a chance to conclude their speech, the one within a group who feels the need to weigh in on a subject matter he has no knowledge of, just in a bid to sound intelligent, the employee who absolutely has to pitch a new idea at every single staff meeting just so they can be seen as possessing initiative. Everybody seems to have something to say every time. Finding the balance between speaking and listening is a struggle for many. But time and time again, I have seen not just the need to, but also the sense in speaking less and observing the happenings in my surroundings more.
The ability to pick up a pen to put my thoughts on paper is a product of not just reading (which is a non negotiable prerequisite to pursuing a career in writing), but also consciously inculcating the art of listening in myself. I have been able to create content for this platform just by listening to people and learning from their experiences. Contrary to what some are inclined to believe, the writer doesn’t know it all. I have expanded my vocabulary by taking out time to check the dictionary meaning of certain “big words” I heard someone say on TV, or even in a conversation. I have also learned that to understand other people and even oneself better, one has to be willing to be a good listener. In the case of the former, it helps to gain a good perspective of how the other person thinks and what informs their decisions and actions and possibly learn from them. Applying that to self; being still and saying nothing gives room for introspection and helps one to connect with their inner self and feelings.
The fast paced way of life in today’s world is one of the elements responsible for the growing dearth of listeners. It’s the age of information overload as more and more mediums of expression are made available every day. Gone are the days when we were limited to the television, radio and newspapers as major sources of information dissemination. These days, there is the internet which comes with an array of social media sites, blogs and vlogs, and so we inevitably find ourselves inundated with stories, news, opinions and both false and true stories. This has caused a shift in the psyche of many. Because, everyone appears to be putting something out there, there is some sort of pressure to be seen to be saying something too. Therefore, we find ourselves in a generation of more talkers and far less listeners and doers.
But, the cacophony of voices all around makes it more important for the discerning one to ensure that his words are not just one of many who are essentially saying the same thing but not necessarily communicating. I strongly believe that words are powerful and should not be wasted. If my utterances are going to fall flat with the people around me or be regarded as just another contribution, then I’d rather be silent. Again, I have discovered that the ones who are truly imbued with knowledge are rarely in a hurry to speak. I don’t know if it is the weight of knowledge that makes one more taciturn, but time and again, I have observed that most achievers would rather listen than talk. Probably lends credence to Plato’s saying “Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something.”
Naturally some people have the gift of gab . They thoroughly enjoy talking, while others are more reticent. Nevertheless, the ability to know when to step back and let others have the floor portrays an individual as mature, unselfish and intelligent. Sometimes, there’s a tendency to erroneously believe that we have the best ideas or suggestions regarding a particular topic and as such presume that everybody in a group should defer to our knowledge of it. For instance, if a person needs legal advice on a matter and is in a discussion with a legal practitioner for that purpose, naturally the client should defer to the Lawyer’s knowledge. However, it doesn’t foreclose that the client can chip in a suggestion or two based on the little he knows too. The fact that one is an expert in a field does not automatically translate to them having the monopoly of knowledge in that field.
I cannot count how many times I have felt like screaming “Enough!” when a person just can’t stop blabbing away. Many of us can relate to that feeling of frustration and annoyance that wells up when there’s a chatter box around us in the cinema, church, library or when we just crave some peace and quiet. While oratory prowess is certainly a gift, the one who knows when to speak up and when to be silent will always be regarded as wise.