In one of the Chicken soup for the soul books, with the sub-title “Life lessons for loving the way you live", Jennifer Read Hawthorne (a best-selling author with the New York Times), has an article entitled “Learn how to listen.”

She begins, “All humans are very much alike, it turns out. While ongoing research constantly reveals more on the subject, estimates on the genetic similarities among human beings have gone as high as 99.9 percent.”

She then raises the question: “Is it possible that less than 1 percent of our biological makeup can really account for the vast differences we humans display?”

She notes that physical differences are obvious, but there are also “cultural, religious, political, and philosophical beliefs that either draw us together or pull us apart.” Many people seem to be very different from us, but she wonders if they really are?

So she asks, “Don’t we human beings, in general, aspire to the same things?”

Hawthorne said that this was answered for her on a plane trip she took one day. She happened to be seated next to “an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the Army National Guard.” He had just completed 18 months serving in Iraq.

As she wrote, “The experience had had a profound impact on him. Stationed in Kurdistan, he had connected deeply with the people, whom he described as happy, even among the poorest. When I asked him how he had connected with the Kurds, he said, “It all comes down to listening. The Kurds love to sing and tell stories. Whenever possible, I would take off my weapon, remove the gear, and sit with them. Despite my level of activity, I always tried to stop and just listen to them.”

He observed that people seem to be the same everywhere; that as Hawthorne expressed it,- “that these people had the same needs and hopes as most: to be treated decently, to have their kids go to school, and to live in a world free from fear....’Listening, I thought, the secret weapon’.”

Epictetus, a Greek-speaking stoic philosopher from the first century, is quoted as saying, “Nature has given to (us) one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”

Hawthorne concludes her article by saying, “If you want to see whether you’re a good listener, notice whether you let people finish their sentences. The tendency to interrupt others means your listening skills could use improvement. But it’s worth it. We all know how to talk, but when we learn how to listen, we become skilled in the other half of true communication.”

May it be so for us!

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