“Are you listening to me?” It is a question that is frequently asked between conversations with my boyfriend and I. I’d like to think that he’s the guilt one but I have been known to multi-task when I’m on the phone with him. He says he knows he’s lost me when all of my responses become one word answers. That’s when he usually throws me for a loop and asks a question that requires at least a phrase…most likely a sentence!
I thought about these conversations while I watched Evelyn Glennie’s Ted Talk. In it, she shares that listening goes beyond passively sitting and letting sound hit our ears. She talks about listening with her hands, feet and eyes. The conversation is thought-provoking. She mentioned that when you see a try swaying in the wind that it helps you “hear” wind, even if you can’t hear anything at all. I especially liked when she asked the audience to make noise like snow and rain. Although she acknowledged their good participation in the activity, she scolded them for staying “within the box” and only clapping their two hands together to produce the sound…despite her encouragement to think differently.
I then took this “different” way of thinking and listened to two radio shows It’s Going to Change Your Life and Falling. These two stories had relatively simple plots. In It’s Going to Change Your Life, the main character Karen Miller gets a promotion and trip to a leadership seminar…both of which are unwanted. The story unfolds using a 3rd person perspective. As a listener, you don’t really know what Karen is thinking…you can only infer her thoughts based on the intonation of her voice, the cadence of speech and what she actually says. In Falling, a woman says a man’s life. The two start dating but she feels smothered with his affection and is concerned that he’s only interested because she saved him. This story is also told in the 3rd person.
The radio show limits the number of characters involved and different voices to help the listener pay attention. Pauses between speaking parts help illustrate the character’s concern or hesitatation; rapid speech patterns indicate excitement or agitation. Background noise such as a lone train whistle give the illusion that the listener is on a train platform. As a whole, the characters and storylines are well-developed, without ever providing a picture. I think it is because the plotlines and characters resonated with me so I could internalize the content. “Listening” may have been harder to do if I wasn’t invested and could really “listen” with my heart.