It is killing me the way we have apparently lost the ability to resolve problems and differences with people in a constructive manner. I work in the public school system and again and again I witness parents and students who have an issue with a staff member who, instead of asking if they can sit down with the staff member and discuss the situation rationally, run around and gossip with other students, parents, administrators or counselors about the situation. I have even observed school staff members do that to other school staff members.
And it is certainly not limited to the school system. It’s all over society in general. We seem to have forgotten communication skills and consideration for others. My goodness, nobody is perfect and sometimes things happen which are out of our control. Or we make mistakes. For the past seven months, I have also been working in retail. Many people are nice and understanding if a mistake is made or something goes wrong. But many are not. They will call in anger, demanding things are made right immediately. I have a friend who works at a pizza store and she says the same thing happens there. Sometimes customers even insist on trying to get the individual who made the mistake into trouble or even fired from the job. Sometimes fellow employees do the same.
America has a reputation for being a litigious society. I have to wonder how many lawsuits could be avoided if people would just sit down and talk things through and really try to listen to each other? Maybe the biggest problem is an inability to listen. I was an interpreter for the deaf for many years and one sign which has always stuck with me is the sign for “listen”. Since deaf people cannot hear, the sign an interpreter uses when a speaker says, “Listen” is the sign that means “Pay attention.” Paying attention is what listening is really all about and is the part we seem to have forgotten. We form opinions on the fly or based on a one-time interaction without taking time to pay careful attention to the person or situation we are dealing with. It is actually quite rude the way we disregard those around us.
I advise students all the time to approach other people nicely, quietly, and to listen carefully to what they have to say when there is a problem. I often also suggest they leave the ear-bud out of their ear. They have been conditioned to listen to the environment with one ear and their music with the other. The problem with that is listening is happening but paying attention is not. We adults do the same thing without ear-buds I have witnessed conversations in which the messages one or both individuals took away from the discussion were completely different from what was intended - or even from what was said! And I have seen disaster result from those interactions.
The problem probably lies in a combination of things - not paying attention being the root of it, of course. But there is also a bit of an entitled attitude I detect among my fellow members of society. I think we don’t pay attention to what others are saying because we don’t pay attention to others period. We are driven by a desire to improve ourselves, to improve our circumstances, to improve the lives of those we love and in some way we take on an entitled attitude in which we believe considering the needs or thoughts of those around us is insignificant.
Maybe the teacher is just completely tired of being called the “B” word by her students and so she is shutting down. It happens, I've witnessed it. Maybe the pizza chef has been on his feet all day after closing the store the night before and is exhausted. Maybe the teen or child has been listening to nothing but fighting day and night and is on the verge of breaking down. Maybe the person causing our greatest conflict is suffering the greatest pain of his or her life. Or maybe he or she made a mistake. Maybe that individual would like to be approached calmly and openly so the air can be cleared.
I wonder how we could find out?
Oh yes! We could take the ear-buds out, drop our prejudices, leave our entitlements at the door, lose the attitude, pull up a chair and TALK!
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