Column: Are you listening?

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Commentary by Lorene Burkhart

Do you remember when your teacher or your parents would say, “Pay attention!”? Whatever had been distracting us was immediately replaced with our full attention, which meant that we fully listened.

Listening seems to have become a lost art, with the elderly and youngsters practicing selective listening and everyone else half-listening as we play with our phones, sending and receiving “urgent” messages.

I’ve noticed that the elderly often have difficulty comprehending information, so only a small amount actually connects. Reseachers tell us that in general we only hear about half of what we are being told and only remember about 20 percent. Now we understand why it’s important to repeat, repeat, repeat important information. When possible, having important information in large print will assist with comprehension, especially among the elderly.

Observing phone behavior in public places is almost scary. Families out for dinner with everyone on their phone and very little conversation. Or adults on their phones and children being ignored. It must be a challenge for teachers to conduct meaningful discussions. I recently read that a law professor has banned any electronics from his classroom. He had discovered that students were watching TV shows, playing games and doing anything except taking notes. (I wonder who is paying for their education?)

So give yourself a listening checkup. Do you really focus on the person who is talking to you? Try looking directly at them and nodding your understanding. Both you and the speaker will benefit.

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