Shut up, and listen | india | Hindustan Times
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Shut up, and listen

Ask a few people what the opposite of talking is; they’ll all say listening, says Sonal Kalra.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2008 12:47 IST
Sonal Kalra

Chaddhaji, the property agent, is unique… no really, trust me. He has an amazing ability to speak non-stop, which may not be that unique, but then he can close his ears to any other sound without using ear-plugs. He even pre-empts your sentences when you’ve barely spoken half a word, that too in a completely bizarre, unconnected way. Sample this: a conversation between him and my friend Ana who went on a house-hunting visit with him.

Ana: I’d like to, er... Chaddhaji (interrupting): Oh, I’ll have to ask the landlord if he’ll take the security amount in instalments. Ana (completely perplexed): No, no, I just wanted to... Chaddhaji (interrupting again): Oh, the broken fan in the bedroom…well you may have to get it repaired yourselves. By this time, Ana, who just wanted to ask if she could use the washroom was not just confused and in acute discomfort from an about-to-burst bladder but also alarmed about the instalment and the fan issues.

That’s what happens when we don’t listen and just speak. And doesn’t that happen way too often? Think how many times, after having understood from the first few words what a friend or colleague wants to say, we don’t let them complete the sentence and jump to finish it ourselves, as if it’s a race to reach the full stop.

Just waiting to talk

Ask a few people what the opposite of talking is; they’ll all say listening. But actually, in today’s context, the opposite of talking is not listening; it’s just ‘waiting to talk’. Life is like Barkha Dutt’s We the people — most people want to be heard but rarely make effort to listen to others. Unfortunately, there is no Barkha around to moderate the situation. Phrases like ‘allow me to finish’ have become common in corporate meetings and discussions.

Come to think of it, the phrase shouldn’t have been there at all. Isn’t it basic courtesy to let someone finish if they’ve started? The possible exception being if the person happens to be a fan of someone like Atal Behari Vajpayee and gives pauses of such jumbo proportions during a sentence that one feels like grabbing a sandwich in the ‘interval’.

Anyway, the point is, we don’t want to listen… we are in a great hurry to blurt out as many words as possible from our mouth, as if they are the chief cause of constipation inside, and not what we ate last night. It’s like a quiz contest: finish the other person’s sentences as quickly as you can. But trust me, there are no prizes in life for that. Many a great relationship or friendship has been soured because of this irritating and annoying tendency.

The calmness trick this week is to shut up, and pay attention. Don’t do five things at once. Do one: listen to the person with whom you’re speaking. Sonal Kalra raised her hand, just like school kids, during a recent conversation with Chaddhaji, for a chance to speak. It didn’t work. Chaddhaji gave her a high five and continued speaking.