I was recently at a funeral, what I noticed was the silence, occasionally disturbed only by hush tones.

Have you noticed that only the present matters, at a funeral,  not the words you say? Words don’t have meaning,  without silence.

We live in a noisy world, where words are given so much prominence. Everybody needs to talk, but nobody is willing to listen. Listening for the sake of listening,  is not really listening, listening need to be active for it to be effective.

I took upon an assignment to be an active listener.

I felt that I couldn’t congratulate myself on my achievements up to now. When, my father who is a big conversationalist,  wants to speak,   “ how those days were wonderful, and nowadays are just hopeless “ I would be the first person to remind him that this is the 1001st time he is delivering the same speech.

I was equally  guilty of offering premature advice when my friends come  up to me with their stories. 

I told myself that I am allowed to speak only 3000  words a day. I had just read that an ordinary woman speaks 20000 words per day as against an ordinary man who would speak 10000 words per day. I gave myself an upper limit of 5000 words a day.

From day one I told myself that I would keep  a journal of the number of words that I speak.

My father was as usual the first to bring me close to the brink of breaking the resolution.

“ This world needs to change,  dramatically, if the world is to reverse the harm it is doing to all living beings, you know when we were little, all children would wake up early in the morning and help parents with household work and work in the fields and then go to schools. Children never wore shoes to school and were even permitted to wear colourful clothes.  Now there is an epidemic of waste. “

My mouth was itching to say something. “ But father it can’t be that everything we do is wrong, nowadays. Obviously, there are faults, but we can’t reverse the journey,  can we? ”

But, I was determined not to break my resolution, so while keeping the words to myself, I went on listening to my father. While half-heartedly listening to my father,  my memory took me back to my little days. I remembered the occasions my father took me and my siblings on long walks across the paddy fields adjacent to my home. How we enjoyed those walks so much because my father took the time to answer all our questions and listen to us. Isn’t it time that I reciprocate my father by listening to him? After my father ended his talk, I looked at my watch,  he had talked only for 7 minutes and 24 seconds. Wait a minute, what I felt as eternity was only 7 little minutes. I felt the happiness in my father’s words when he finished delivering his talk and wished me a good day. I  had always assumed my father to be a difficult man to please. But he just needed 7 minutes of my undivided attention, to be happy. It was a revelation to me. 

In the evening I went for a jog, while jogging usually I have the habit of having my earphones on. I love to have soothing music while I walk. Today, I thought I would not have my earphones on, but rather that I would enjoy my walk in silence. I was surprised by the number of people who nodded at me in acknowledgement and smiled with me. I took the time to enjoy nature while being in silent contemplation. Silence brought my walking partners and nature closer to me.

At the office, I told myself that I would listen to all people who intend to talk to me without interrupting at all. Previously it was my idea that if I don’t talk I would not be putting across my ideas, but today I understood that silent listening allowed me to put forward my ideas with more clarity.

I learnt loads of things I didn’t know about my fellow co-workers, just in one day,  by silent listening. 

I noticed the sense of calm that would come to rest on the speaker when there is an attentive listener in front of him. One particularly lengthy conversation is etched in my mind. Despite the urge to interrupt, offer solutions I  true to my resolution,  kept on listening,  to a grievance of an employee at a hospital. Towards the latter part of the conversation,  I noticed that the lady was more relaxed, even composed.

Even without asking me to resolve her grievances, she told me “ You listened to me for so long. This is the first time someone has listened to me this long. Even at home, they tell me I shouldn’t think and talk too much about what is happening at the hospital. I am really grateful for your time. I felt that  half of my problems are solved “

Then it dawned on me, we usually tend to listen to outsiders than people who are near and dear to us. My father might have told me the same story for the 1000th time, but it is still brand new to him and who knows maybe he is offering a new perspective to the old story.

We have the urge to offer solutions to problems to brought to us, why not just lend a patient and silent ear and the solution will reveal itself.

Now, I try to limit my words for the day and have more words from others fill my day. My life is richer, more peaceful and happier because I decided to be a better listener.

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