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Few are really listening to you

Few are really listening to you Few are really listening to you
Source: Ferenc Pintér via galeriemartel
You're Not Listening
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You're Not Listening
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It was extraordinary how many people told me they considered it burdensome to ask family or friends to listen to them—not just about their problems but about anything more meaningful than the usual social niceties or jokey banter. An energies trader in Dallas told me it was "rude" not to keep the conversation light; otherwise, you were demanding too much from the listener. A surgeon in Chicago said, "The more you're a role model, the more you lead, the less permission you have to unload or talk about your concerns." When asked if they, themselves, were good listeners, many people I interviewed freely admitted that they were not. The executive director of a performing arts organization in Los Angeles told me, "if I really listened to the people in my life, I'd have to face the fact that I detest most of them." And she was, by far, not the only person who felt that way. Others said they were too busy to listen or just couldn't be bothered. 

Text or email was more efficient, [some people would say], because they could pay only as much attention as they felt the message deserved, and they could ignore the message or delete the message if it was uninteresting or awkward. Face-to-face conversations were too fraught. Someone might tell them more than they wanted to know, or they might not know how to respond. Digital communication was more controllable. 

So begets the familiar scene of twenty-first-century life—at cafés, restaurants, coffeehouses, and family dinner tables, rather than talking to one another, people look at their phones. Or if they are talking to one another, the phone is on the table as if a part of the place setting, taken up at intervals as casually as a knife or fork, implicitly signaling that the present company is not sufficiently engaging.

As a consequence, people can feel achingly lonely, without quite knowing why. 

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