“Why are you so quiet? Can you just say something?”
He laughs. My dad. A sanguineous, happy go lucky, constantly trying to make me talk, make me laugh.
“Why would I want to talk as much as you do? You talk enough for the lot of us around here. I like to listen!” I say with a laugh.
“Go watch your batman movies” he says as he walks out of the living room.
Yep, that’s me. Limited vocal cords, colossal amounts of words catapulting through my brain that I often struggle to articulate. I’ll bet Bruce Wayne was never told to speak more, I think to myself. But, he had that cool fancy suit and deep voice thing going. I’m not sure either would work for me to be honest.
I wasn’t always this reserved. It’s just that it’s become this new world trend of online vlogging, Facebook lives, zoom sessions, Insta stories, Insta lives, IGTV. Far out! Anyone who owns a smartphone practically starts their own show. Is it just me or does everyone have an opinion about everything nowadays. Constant complaining and bombardments of people talking at you in real life, on my social media feed. And all I can picture in my mind when I watch them is that ‘80’s pop song with the guy with the bleach blonde hair jumping around singing “when, will I, will I be famous?”. I know, I know so retro right. But, I bet you sang it in your mind though. Ugh. I wish people would just, stop talking already! And yes, I’m rolling my eyes here.
Does anyone actually listen anymore?
What is even listening? Do we even know anymore? Why do we listen? Listen to hear, to understand, to give one’s attention. Hmmm. Interesting you say, giving attention instead of just receiving it?! So, listening is a verb. Meaning it is an active word, a state of being, a doing word. Listening is a significant part of our faith tradition. We come from a family of listeners, knowledge comes from listening. Passed on through transmission of listening to our teachers. Even the word athan or adhan as we refer to the call to prayer comes from the Arabic root word adhina, meaning ‘to listen’, to hear, and to be informed. Then to perform the prayer.
Our beloved prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) had the most beautiful method of listening and communication in his interactions. The prophet ﷺ spoke very little and very beautiful. When he did speak, it was a tapestry of wisdom and excellence. He would physically turn his complete body towards another person while he listened and conversed. Making soft, gentle eye contact. His body language would show his attentiveness and would reflect his expressions making the other person feel as though they were important. He would pause, wait for the person to complete their thoughts. He would paraphrase gently back to that person to let them know he understood what they were expressing before he attempted to respond. Abu Hurayrah a companion narrates the hadith of the prophet peace be upon him “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim). This is exactly what is described as active and attentive listening techniques for positive human connections by many counselling services and interpersonal relationship experts.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Is it really that easy? Do I just, keep being silent? Not say much of anything? At all?
Did you hear about the story of the Bedouin who walks into the masjid? Sounds like the beginning of a dad joke. So, it’s a Friday, and the congregational prayers are taking place. The prophet Muhammad ﷺ is on the mimber giving the jumuah khutba. You’re not supposed to talk at this point only listen (again, just listening). But, this Bedouin walks right up to the prophet and he says ‘When is the hour of the day of judgment? Like literally in the middle of the khutba. I can actually imagine this happening in my mind! If this happened today, some hero would kick him out in a flash. But, the beautiful prophet ﷺ smiles at him and says ‘What did you prepare for it?’ The Bedouin then gives an answer that makes everyone happy forever ‘I didn’t prepare for it a lot of prayer or a lot of fasting.’ Apparently he would do his five daily prayers and required fasting in Ramadan. He continued to say, ‘But I love God, and I love his messenger.’ And the messenger of Allah smiled again and replied ‘You will be with those whom you love’. How cool are Bedouins. Man, I love that guy!
You see, such a short exchange of words, but so profound in its impact that we still mention it today, 1400 years later. It’s not the length of the interaction but the quality, the genuineness. Smile, listen, and love. In other words, be careful and conscious about your speech and the words you chose to use or write on social media platforms. Most of the time you just need to listen and observe to connect. Pay attention before you react. Speech is like a sword; it can be very dangerous for those who don’t know how to use it. Difficult to take back once spoken. It burns and pierces into your soul. It’s so easy to let yourself get caught up in the moment of the waves of your emotions or current trends and feel forced to have an opinion and then to express it.
I’ve decided its ok to be silent and listen. This is how I see the true colours around me. For listening is my superpower.