Selective listening

It is built in nature that we can’t shut our ears but that we can shut our mouths.  Put another way, we have two open ears vis-a-vis one mouth, that works best when shut. However we look at it, silence is golden and listening is a valuable virtue. But in today’s world an amended version is in vogue.  It is what I call ‘elective listening.’ It happens all the time: consciously, unconsciously, intentionally, unintentionally, impulsively, and even intuitively. Be it an aged person or an immature teenager, today’s art of living lies in ‘selective listening.’  Listening to what appeals and to ignore everything else, has successfully taken over the wise philosophy of complete, rapt listening.

To illustrate, when I tell my children to ‘switch off the TV,’ they only hear the word TV. The result is that the idiot box is on by default at home, playing programmes from ‘Friends’ to ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ non- stop when the kids are home. Again, when I give them a discourse on effective time management and the importance of organisation in their rooms and study, the obscure principle of ‘selective listening’ creeps in.  So obviously, they hear little, thereby missing out on, what I think, could well be an encyclopedia in ‘teenage-organisation.’

However, it does have its merits.  The nagging wife does not appear such a nag, the dominating husband is easy to put up with, the malicious mother-in-law seems less manipulative, the haughty father-in-law can simply be ignored, tough bosses look less demanding, and our grouchy neighbours become agreeable friends, all by this amazing art of selective listening.

The best part is that selective listening requires negligible intelligence. Even my simple maid recently stayed out of trouble by resorting to this practice.

I was expecting some guests home for lunch one weekend. I therefore sent her home earlier than the usual time the previous day saying, “You might have to stay late tomorrow”.  “Yes amma!” she said, nodding her head vigorously.  The next day in the middle of hectic work when she walked in a couple of hours late, I blew my top.  “You are so late! Don’t you know I am expecting guests?” I yelled.  With a puzzled look, she replied, “I thought you wanted me to come late today!”  It then occurred to me that she had exercised her ‘selective listening’ option and I just had to let her off the hook!

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