Hearing is not listening

One of the ways I like to relax after a day’s work or at weekends is to go for a walk. In common with many people, it helps me unwind and relax, and often I will have new ideas or know the solution to a problem I have been wrestling with. Sometimes I know the answer with such clarity that it seems obvious, and then I wonder why I had not thought of it before. Probably this is because once you know something it is just obvious to you.

When I am off on one of my walks, I do not think about work too much with my conscious mind. It is the subconscious which comes up with the ideas, but I do not worry if I do not get inspired. There is always another day and another walk.

What I do consciously when out is listen. It is fairly rural around where I live and I listen to the birds singing and calling, I listen to the trees and grass rustling, and to other background sounds such as a woodpecker hammering away. Of course I look also, and may see an interesting bird or a fox or a rabbit or a squirrel or two. The May blossom has been spectacular too, and well before the month of May and there is a new badger excavation only a hundred yards or so from home.

I always think it a shame that so many people out walking or jogging have their iPods or other music devices plugged in their ears. Not only are they missing the sounds of the country and surroundings, but somehow they do not seem to see either. Many almost walk or run into me with their concentration elsewhere, and they are missing (to my mind) the joy of their independent existence in a world full of life, of sound and of colour.

Sometimes it does not take too much adjustment to listen. If I have company on my walks (my best thinking is during solitary walks) I will say to a companion “Can you hear that bird calling or woodpecker drumming and isn’t that flower in the hedgerow pretty?” and then my friend (or my stepdaughter the other day) will notice, and then start listening and observing. That’s important, because the sounds are there all the time, but listening is the key to observing and learning, and I am happy to learn all the time.

I was at a networking meeting this morning, and though I have some reservations about the format, its USP is that it is very informal, though as with any networking group, one does need to be there every week. What I noticed today was that rather than everyone thinking about his or her one-minute sales message whilst others were giving theirs, there was comment and feedback. For once, attendees really were listening and learning from the others at the meeting, which is so often not the case. If we listen, we can help our fellow networkers find what they are looking for, and that is better than just saying when the opportunity arises “I know a bookkeeper or a builder or an insurance broker”. If you listen, you can learn and help others. If you just hear you are wasting your own and everyone else’s time.

© Jon Stow 2009

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