The Lost Art of Listening

No one listens anymore. It doesn’t matter if it’s business or pleasure, the other person is either talking over you or thinking what s/he wants to say next and not listening.

I was in the grocery store this morning. The cashier was yakking away. I don’t know when they decided that checking out my groceries meant we are now best friends, but this one and the one earlier this weekend both seemed to want to talk. Not listen. Talk.

So the cashier was commenting on how many people come in for one thing and get many more. My son, who was with me, had mentioned that we came for three items and got many more. The cashier talked and talked about people who did that and how we hadn’t done too bad – only spending $50. I was trying to tell her I also had entered the cash back option – she had asked me if I had keyed in my pin number for my debit card. I said yes, and before I could add I’d asked for cash back, she was off and running again with what I assume she thought was interesting conversation. Three times I tried to mention the cash back because I felt like with her constant prattle, she might not notice it. She was actually folding up the receipt to hand to me when I got her to hear that I was getting cash back.

The previous cashier this weekend had wanted to know how many cats I had when she noticed my cat food. I actually lost one of my cats a couple weeks ago and did not feel like discussing cats with her. However, she wanted to tell me all about hers. I just want to pay for my groceries and leave. I don’t like it when people ahead of me slow down the cashier by constant chatting. Maybe I’m unfriendly, but I prefer to talk to friends, not those who are waiting on me.

Speaking of being waited on, I went to a restaurant Thursday night and the waiter took our drink order and then asked if we all wanted the buffet, and as he turned to walk away without listening to whether we wanted buffet or not, my son said he guessed we all wanted the buffet. This same waiter ignored empty plates on our table and did not even have the beverages at the table by the time we got back from the buffet. We had to go up to the cashier and ask her where we might get refills. Needless to say, I left no tip. I usually tip heavily, but not if the waiter does not listen and ignores my table.

I believe the lack of listening skills are caused by all the technology people interact with daily. They are the center of attention as they type, text, send, and receive . . . and whatever else they choose to do.

I also notice that people now talk with food in their mouths, with their hand covering their mouth as they speak. What is with that? Are people so desperate to talk that they cannot chew and swallow before they speak?

Maybe all this displeasure with how listening is now conducted – or rather not conducted – comes because I grew up in a time when we listened as much as we talked. There is much to gain in listening. Especially if a true conversation is taking place and not one dominated by people so hell-bent on talking incessantly.

I wonder if they ever hear the birds sing? Do they stop to watch the fireflies in early evening? Are all the slow, take your time, simple pleasures from the past gone now? Or do people not want to hear what others have to say?


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