Listening and tolerence

Cathy Brownfield

A day or two ago, when I began studying at Kent State-Salem, I took a class called “Listening.” It is true. It was a real class. I didn’t want to stand up in front of a class every week and give speeches. I am not a good public speaker, I think. So, I took Listening.

Listening is hearing what someone just said to you and trying to understand what that someone was trying to tell you. And that is exactly what that class was about.

Back then it was ABC, CBS, and NBC news competing for the Nielson ratings. (I told you it was a day or two ago.) Our assignments included tuning in to news broadcasts of the news networks, to “listen” to their news reporting and compare their slants on all of the news they reported. How were they alike? How were they different? Did they lead/mislead their audiences? What did the reporters’ body language suggest? How might people have reacted to those reports/reporters? And the students carried their newly acquired listening skills out into their little corners of the world to listen and discern what people were saying and what they meant.

            I must have been grumbling about a lack of communication when the newspaper editor I worked with said to me, “Cathy, just because we’re in the communication business doesn’t mean we communicate." There was truth in his statement. However, communication is vitally important to human beings. We are such social creatures. When we listen, we should give full attention to what is being said, to help sidestep the pitfalls incurred when we don’t listen and have to deal with consequences.

            So many of us have the bad habit of continuing with whatever we are doing that we miss what was just said and what the person actually meant. We don’t catch their context, their body language, which helps to inform us of their intent. We don’t meet their eyes when we talk to them. And what about when your child said something that you didn’t catch but you said, “um-hm,” anyway, and later realized your error? Consequences.

            Thanksgiving is on the horizon. This year has passed so quickly. It is a good time, though, to develop an attitude of gratitude for what we are fortunate to have, the people we are fortunate to call family, friends, and neighbors. And there is a need to communicate with each other, not just to be heard, but also to hear.

            Nov. 25 is “National Day of Listening.” Since 2008 at its inception, the day after Thanksgiving has been observed as such. It began as part of an oral history project, learning about your ancestors, how you got here from your beginnings. Sitting together during this family time of year, conversations move in wonderful directions. So, put down that book, that pen, that mouse, the phone, the broom … and give your full attention to the people who surround you. Trust me. Those things will still be there when you are ready to get back to work.

            The other thing I want to mention is “tolerance.” On Nov. 16, 1996, the United Nations General Assembly established the International Day of Tolerance. Every Nov. 16 the day is observed. Basically, what it means is that you have the right to be who you want to be, to believe what you choose to believe, to live your life your way. I have the same rights. We all do. But we need a good rule of law to keep everything in balance. We all are uniquely formed, closed sets of one. There is no one exactly like you. There is no one exactly like me – which might be a good thing, hahahahaha. You are priceless. And when you are seeking acceptance the way you are, so is everyone else around you.

            Tolerance is being sympathetic or indulgent about the beliefs or practices that are different from our own. Sometimes we need to just agree to disagree, go forward, still friends, still connected, still caring about each other. Maybe we all are looking for the same thing, truth.

            Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful that you spend some of your time reading my humble words.

Family Recovery Center has professional staff who are ready to listen when you have no one else to talk to. The goal is for the health and well-being of all. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email, Visit the website at FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.