Listening is a lost form of art. This simple idea of giving your full attention to someone who is speaking is a rare sight; nowadays, it is common to see people who are only half listening.
Active listening is the act of not simply listening, but also showing a deeper understanding of what the other person is talking about. It requires repetition and paraphrasing of what is being said to show that as a listener, you are paying close attention to the conversation. Nowadays, most people do not know what active listening is because they do not engage in it. The underrated art of listening is slowly dissipating at our own cost.
In the high school setting where stressed, sleep deprived creatures roam, good listening is needed. Unfortunately, it is not the type of listening that is found; the type of listening that is present in high school is very “on the surface.” Sure, it is fun to talk about what we did on the weekend, or plans for after graduation—which is absolutely important—but people have emotions, and that is usually forgotten. If people are only having these “on the surface” conversations, then all those pent up emotions that others might have will most likely continue to build up because they are not talking about it.
According to the Conflict Research Consortium of the University of Colorado, people today fail to listen attentively because they are usually half listening and thinking about something else that has nothing to do with the conversation. This is a common mistake. People are focusing on more than one thing and cannot fully engage with the speaker.
According to the Director of the Northern California Mediation Center Nancy J. Foster, J.D., it is more than just asking if someone is okay or telling them that everything will be fine. Active listening also has a lot to do with the way people present themselves physically. Listeners must look engaged.
“85 percent of what we communicate is nonverbal. This includes our posture, physical movements, eye contact and our psychological presence. So, when someone is speaking to you, is your posture inclined toward the speaker, so as to invite and encourage expression? Or is your back turned or your arms or legs tightly crossed, which discourages and cuts off involvement?” Foster stated in her article, “Barriers to Everyday Communication.”
This skill of active listening is extremely necessary in high schools. Teenage angst is no myth. That feeling of the world collapsing right on your shoulders, thinking that no one in the universe understands, is very real for most students. We scream and shout out problems and wait anxiously for some sort of consolation, and a lot of the times we do not necessarily get it. We talk about our emotions, even open up, but the feeling that no one is listening is overwhelming.
President of San Gabriel High School’s Conflict Mediation class, senior Erica Tan believes that listening and hearing people out is key to keeping a peaceful environment in high school.
“Disagreements and conflicts in high school usually occur because a person isn’t hearing what the other person has to say and the way to solve that is to become a skilled listener,” Tan said. “When people are able to show respect and to understand what another person is saying it can help to create a safer environment for people at school to speak their minds and to be heard.”
Teenagers and adults can talk all they want, but that does not mean they are being listened to. People nod their heads, agreeing with everything they are being told, but really, it is going in through one ear and out the other. This concept of active listening should be something students and teachers alike should become familiar with and regularly engage in to create a more harmonious campus.