One day, I took my usual work lunch break to sit in the local park and relax for a bit. After a couple of minutes, a man approached me and asked for help accessing the 1-hour free Wi-Fi. I did so but neither of us actually touched our phones for the next 60 minutes.
Instead, we discussed our lives.
He’d come to travel New Zealand from the Netherlands and told me all about his experiences of working in hospitality, the differences of Dutch culture, and his adventures of hiking and biking our country (many of which even I hadn't heard of).
Suddenly, the nearby clock tower struck 1:30 and I realised I had to get back to work. I struggle to have conversations with some work acquaintances for an entire hour let alone a complete stranger! So I was shocked we’d managed to immerse ourselves in each others worlds for such a large space of time.
I feel like listening is rapidly becoming a quality that is seriously underrated and underused in today's world. On the surface, it seems like something that we assume to be easy and that we're all capable of doing. But I feel like the number of times I see people nodding at others pretending like they give a sh*t is increasingly declining.
Too often, I feel we are consumed in ourselves and our own lives that we don’t truly hear what others have to offer. Whether social media has a part to play in this, is perhaps a topic of discussion for another day but it is worth thinking about whether we are subsidising conversations of enlightenment with our smartphones.
Lesson learned: From those I’ve observed, the people who make the best listeners are those who are able to hear an idea from someone they’ve never met before and strike up a conversation at the same unbiased level as someone they’ve known their entire lives.