Listening is a Superpower

I can’t sleep. All I can hear is the relentless wind outside tearing up my lawn and yanking on my house’s vent flaps. I’d have a better chance of catching z’s sleeping in Grand Central Station than in my crooked little house in the North of England. Also, tornado scenes from the Wizard of Oz are flooding my mind and instilling the fear of God in me that my house will soon take off…

Oh, how I wish I could make the racket stop!

But then again, it did inspire this article. So, every cloud and all that.

Wait, WHY did I mention clouds? It’s bloody well pelting it down with rain now! Jeez – am I in control of this crazy weather or something?!

Anyway! Despite how the rather flatulent anomaly, Storm Erik, is busy puffing 70mph winds strong enough to rearrange my garden’s plant pots, it’s got me thinking: Listening is actually quite a skill. At 3am, it’s a very annoying one, but during conversations with others and then post-conversation, it comes in great handy. But listening isn’t just a case of being able to relay a piece of information back parrot-fashion. No, true listening requires attention, interest and most of all, care. Ultimately, if you’re truly taking in what someone else has told you, you’ll remember it long after the conversation. You’ll remember what they said, why they said it, maybe even when they said it, but most definitely, you’ll remember it when you need it most. For instance, when buying gifts.

There have been many a time I’ve been stumped on what to buy someone, usually because I know very little about them. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Some friend you are! What did you buy them then – toiletries? You suck!” Well, actually, they were Secret Santa gifts, so I have a legit excuse to potentially know less about said person. So, nerr! Therefore, when a conversation isn’t as easy a mission, I rely on the skill of observation.

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Observation and listening are both parallel, as they both require taking an interest in somebody else and remembering things they like/dislike. So, as much as you think that Gucci perfume smells insanely nice and anyone would be thrilled to have it in their stocking, if the person you’re buying for is an eco-warrior tree-hugger that never wears any kind of fragrance except the one delivered by nature, then your gift is going to be pretty pointless to them. Plus, you can’t hide behind anonymity forever. Sooner or later, everyone works out who got what for Secret Santa, and you’ll be outed as a complete tit. So you’d better get those observational skills in check. Open your eyes and ears, and start taking note.

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The benefits of listening are endless. For a start, people actually respect you for it. Actively listening and remembering things people have told you denotes that you care about them, and thus, earning you a little bit of R.E.S.P.E.C.T (Yes! you sang it, too!) Of course, as the old saying goes, “Respect is earned not owed” and taking in what others tell you enables that to happen. Naturally, the reverse goes for the opposite. Which reminds me of a short story…

On my birthday this year, a ridiculous picture message was delivered to my Whatsapp inbox (I’ll omit the name of the sender to avoid public embarrassment) containing a picture of a hog roast. Nothing more, nothing less, just a hideous, wretch-inducing image of a poor pig being cooked on a stick. Now, bearing in mind that I’m a vegetarian (and they know this) and that it was also my birthday (and they knew this) you’d think that this would be the last thing I’d want to receive, right? Right. So, before you wonder if I’m just crazy uptight, allow me to prove that benefit of the doubt was in play.

  1. There was no daft emoji that followed to indicate it as a joke.
  2. There was no birthday message attached to show remembrance of the said occasion.
  3. In fact, there was nothing else for a couple of days, until Facebook gave them a rather large boot in the proverbial as a reminder. Nice.

Anyway, this same person demanded that I answer all their calls within a time-slot allocated by them, they felt the need to dictate to me how to spend my money, they didn’t remember things I’d told them about my life, they’d cast derisive judgement on the way I write (when I never even asked for their opinion) and they constantly reminded me about events from the past I couldn’t change…And yet, they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t jumping through hoops for them. Well, think about it, Mr/Mrs Unnamed, should you ever read this, know the answer lies in the fact that you don’t listen! Listening earns you respect. It’s obvious you don’t listen to me because you take no interest in what I do unless you can pick it apart, so why should I give you respect back for that? You don’t even ask questions politely because sounding-off is clearly way more fun for you. And, in all honesty, I don’t operate like that. I like positive people in my life who – should a conflict of interest arise – conduct a discussion whereby attacking one another is not on the agenda. Yagetme?

I rest my case.

Right! Gosh, that dried my mouth out. Excuse me whilst I just down a gallon of water to rehydrate myself.

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Ahh! Much better. Ranting makes you thirsty, so how about we wrap this one up nice and succinctly, eh?

So, you little superhero! You’ve totally taken in everything on here, haven’t you? You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t keen on acquiring that sexy little cape to wear whilst you fly about saving cities with your new Hawk Vision and Supersonic Bat Ears, anyway. Which is exactly why listening is a superpower. In order to be a superhero, you don’t go in blind. You don’t barge in like a bull in a china shop. You know your skills, limits and you know your surroundings because you’ve listened, observed, learned and asked the right questions. Therefore, in theory, you should be well-equipped with how to save your beloved city. And, as a result, once you’ve well and truly whooped ass out there, you’ll earn the respect from millions of grateful citizens.

Cool, huh? Who’d have thought hearing stuff could be such a superpower…

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