Silence is Golden

By Drum Digital
22 September 2014

After losing his ability to speak for a while, DRUM reader Lehlo Sambatha learnt to listen

A few months ago I began using a new mouthwash that really irritated my mouth. A few days later I experienced the worst canker sore ever. Situated on the side of my tongue, it was beyond painful and even though it lasted little over a week, I was miserable to say the least. On the fourth day the pain had become excruciating and I couldn’t speak at all. But, believe it or not, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. We all have busy lives, but stop for a second and imagine living your life in mute.  I went to the post office, the mall for groceries, work and many other places where I had to communicate with people. I relied upon nods, smiles, sad faces, a notepad and thumbs up or thumbs down gestures to get my point across. You would have thought you were watching a silent movie had you seen me. It was terribly frustrating, but it was also fascinating to see how good people were at deciphering what I was trying to say.

I relied upon nods, smiles, sad faces, a notepad and thumbs up or thumbs down gestures to get my point across.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty good listener, but not being able to speak was a painful reminder that there’s always room for personal growth. In the two days I couldn’t speak I realised just how bad of a listener I was, how often I speak unnecessarily, how much I cut people off and how much I talk out of turn before someone can get their thought out. It forced me to see how selfish and greedy we allow our tongues to make us. Selfish because we don’t want to share the floor and greedy because we feel the need to take credit for all the thoughts being uttered.  It wasn’t as if I was being intentionally rude, but in hindsight it was obnoxious of me. Sometimes I wish others could have the same experience as me, just so they could see how much dialogue is wasted, and how it’s wasted on being negative about irrelevant situations and others. Active listening takes practise and if you want to excel at it, it takes practise and discipline. Often we “listen” to people, but during the process we’re coming up with our own assumptions, scenarios and conclusions. It’s just another way to boost our egos. And when it comes to our loved ones, we really don’t listen because we feel we already know what they’re saying and just sum it up for them.

A study reveals that 93 % of communication is determined by non-verbal cues. If that’s true, then it means what we don’t say can be way more important than what we do say, and of course how we say it plays a major part too.  There are so many quotes about listening, but this one I came across really stood out: Listen 90 % of the time and talk 10 % of the time. While I’m not always good at it, I want to work on being a better listener. When we listen, we learn and grow. And even though growing can be painful at times, it’s always an accomplishment.

By Lehlo Sambatha

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