Listening is as much an art as speaking. To listen without any prejudice and with an open mind is a must condition for intellectual growth
Are you listening? When was it the last time you listened to someone, without thinking or commenting, for, or against, what was being told to you? When was the last time you listened to someone without starting to frame your reply in your mind? When was the last time you listened to someone without forming a bias? Even as you are reading these words, almost all of you, are trying to do one of the things that have been mentioned above. And that is the problem of a severe epidemic of individualisation that has struck us today.
Can someone create something without any thought at all about the person for whom that thing is being created? Can a singer sing something without thinking of the listeners? This question can be asked about almost any creator, creative or otherwise. Remember the time when you struggled to use a product, which became so user-unfriendly because of a bad and botched-up product design. A pen that constantly slips your grip, a drilling machine that continuously shakes out of control, and a driver’s seat that is too close to the steering wheel, are all signs of the creator failing to listen to or become one with the audience.
Swami Vivekananda famously said that we need to concentrate on the whys of life rather than bother about the hows. And that is what we would do here too. We would try to find why is it that one fails to connect with the audience, or become the audience.
Great filmmakers have always wished completely to identify themselves with the audience, because they knew that was the only way to produce great and memorable films. In film or theatre, it is a big challenge to overgrow acting and directing, and watching one’s own creation from a distance, as an observer, as an audience. This process involves shedding the ego and identification as the creator. To understand why this identification comes in the first place, we have to understand how speech was used by the primitive human being. For the human being or for most living beings, which can generate some sound, sound has been a major dominance mechanism. For instance, a bird that hops from one tree-top to the other and chirps at its maximum sound is not trying to convey any fabulous idea, but is just establishing its dominance in the area.
Fear of death and the fear of killing were eventually replaced by the human beings by the fear of dominance by being shouted out. Even today, there are many tribes, which make deafening noise before any conflict, just to frighten the other group. Gradually, mere sound or volume was replaced by the content of speech for acquiring dominance. So, intelligent speech with much rhetoric and citing of evidence to support one’s standpoint is what has become the modern means of achieving dominance.
So, when you are framing your reply even while you are listening to someone, you are actually yielding to a defence mechanism that has been built in you, and that you have inherited from your millennia-old ancestors. This is a vestigial remnant of evolution. We have to overcome it by understanding that there are no more the same kind of opponents as in our primitive times. Most of the time, there are no opponents.
It is necessary to become one with the audience also because that improves one’s performance. Else, lost in one’s pride, a person loses all sense of performance, speaking or otherwise. Oftentimes, one has to just listen to one’s own words to understand the absurdity of one’s speech.