I was offered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today (bear with me, the story gets more exciting). I responded automatically with a “no thank you” and almost walked away. Almost. It was right before I turned away that I saw the girl who was speaking to me motioning to a sign that read “Feed The Homeless.” That was when I realized what she was really offering me. She wanted me to MAKE a sandwich for the homeless, not TAKE one for myself. How rude of me to not even process what she had to say before sputtering out a self-serving answer and beginning to walk away.
Far too often, we give knee-jerk responses to the people talking to us without truly listening to the messages they are trying to convey. There is a quote by Nishan Panwar that I believe applies to this predicament in which we sometimes find ourselves: “The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”
Those who hold a degree in communications, marketing or a related field, are expected to be the experts of human interaction. We are trained to process information presented to us so that we may respond to it in an eloquent and effective manner. As I spread some peanut butter on slices of bread, I listened to the girl at the table tell me about her group’s mission to feed the homeless. I learned about the prevalence of hunger in the cities surrounding campus. I was humbled by the opportunity to feed a hungry stranger. I listened and I learned.
This brief encounter made me think about life on a broader scale. If we are being honest with ourselves, habitually responding the way I did this morning, is an offense we can often make. We can get so wrapped up in reaching deadlines, completing projects, and tending to other preoccupations at work that we let our processing go to the periphery just to get the job done. If only we took a pause to absorb and process the words people speak rather than listening just enough to formulate a response.
Imagine how the quality of work we put out would improve simply by opening our ears (and our hearts). Imagine how we could transform our relationships in the office if we became a little more attentive to the way we respond to others. Imagine what our world look like if we simply began to listen, learn, and be humbled.
About the Author - Lauren Jedlicka
Lauren Jedlicka is a second year student from Cleveland, Ohio. She is a Strategic Communication major with a minor in Integrative Approaches to Health and Wellness. Lauren is currently a Wellness Ambassador through The OSU’s Student Wellness Center. In the future, she would like to work on health campaigns to educate the public on holistic wellness.