Are We Really Listening?

Earlier this week I received, the advanced reader copy of Kate Murphy’s novel, You’re Not Listening, set to release January 7, 2020, and was immediately struck by the contents of the story. The Houston, Texas-based reporter who in the past has written for The New York Times and The Economist, shows within the first few pages just how convincing and exquisite her story-telling skills are.

What fascinates me about Murphy’s book is that even during the increasingly unavoidable loneliness of today’s digital age, she’s found a way to combat isolation. In this book, Murphy addresses the epidemic through a profoundly personal style of teaching us to be better listeners and connecting with everyone around us. In a way, she urges us to stop talking and start listening.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic, and I want to motivate my readers to get their hands on the book come the new year because I think many of us can use it as a tool for our upcoming New Year resolutions in 2020. Ever since reading the first few chapters, I have changed the way I listen to the people around me. I have become conscious of my subtle cues, and have noticed times where I really am just not listening.

I say that with sadness because no one should feel ignored, and I should know better as I have been in the situation being ignored. It’s disheartening to be on the phone with a friend and hear the radio silence behind every “mhmm” and “yeah” that they mutter out as they go through the motions and “pretend to listen.” Your confidence can be crushed when you are catching up with a friend for drinks, and they keep checking their phone in the middle of your story about what you’ve been up to since you last saw them.

As a psychology student, I have always realized how widely essential listening can be for yourself and the relationships you forge in the future, and I regret to say I’ve ever fallen short when it came to listening to everything someone said. One thing Murphy pointed out is if we are actually listening, there is no need for the subtle cues that show that we are listening. We don’t need to interject with mindless mumbles, but rather when they are done with their point, we should be able to briefly summarize what the person may have said and then add our thoughts and point of view to continue the conversation.

It could be jarring at first, but after reading that chapter of her book, you come to realize just how often you nod your head and interject in addition to how often you may lose your focus on just merely listening when you are going through the motions of proving you are “listening.”

Maybe teachers have always tried to make us good listeners. Perhaps they know what they are saying when they tell us to put our hands down until they are done speaking.

It was in middle school when I heard a teacher interject, “you aren’t listening when you have your hand up, and you’ll have more questions later because of it.” Which is wildly accurate, in school and in life outside of the classroom.

Someone may have said something, and then you replay their statement over and over in your head because you have a question about what they may have said, or you might be formulating a response and all the while you never hear the rest of their story.

There is so much we can learn from just listening, and being an active listener versus a passive listener. Although my friends had always deemed me as a great listener when it came to heading their insecurities and struggles because I would typically ask thought-provoking questions in response to their statements, I know there is more I can do to prove I am a good listener. I have Kate Murphy to thank since she was the one who reminded me just how important it is to really listen to your friends.

How many of my readers have felt ignored or lonely because they feel like there is no one out there to listen to them? Has there ever been a moment where you felt like you couldn’t be your complete, authentic self because you thought, “what’s the point in wasting my breath, they aren’t even listening?” I want you to know you aren’t alone, but that there is so much we can learn by being listeners, and the more that we can do to inspire others to listen, the more we can change the way our future develops.

International Literacy Day

“International Literacy Day, celebrated annually on 8 September, is an opportunity for Governments, civil society and stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world’s remaining literacy challenges.”– UN.org

Literacy and Multilingualism is the theme of 2019 where the UN urges the peoples of the world to express solidarity with the linguistic diversity that is present in education and the development of literacy to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The reason why today is so essential is that literacy is for everyone, everywhere. My ability to read and write allows me to have this platform to express myself. I can pick up a book and get lost in another world that is unlike my own. I can pursue a career that I enjoy as well as further my future with the enrichment of my ancestors and diverse cultures.

I couldn’t imagine a world where I lack a way to communicate with the various cohorts I keep. I love my growing library and world of knowledge I have learned through the skills of literacy, but I understand how crucial maintaining diversity in our education systems is.

I keep a copy of Other-Wordly: words both strange and lovely from around the world on my coffee table to remind me how diverse languages can be and how some languages have words for feelings that the English language cannot sum up in a single phrase. I open it on occasions to familiarize myself not only with words but with emotions that I will then include in my writing.

Knowing there is a word like ‘querencia‘ which is a noun rooted in the Spanish language that means a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self, means I not only am educating myself on new vocabulary from a language that was for a lot of my friends, their first language, but it’s reminding me about the places that I feel my most authentic self. 

I feel most at home with a blanket wrapped around my shoulder. I feel at home in the arms of my partner or with my toes dug into the warm sand. I feel most at home in Florida, London, Boulder, and New York City. I feel most at home with the crisp autumn air, crunching leaves, and an abundance of pumpkins.

The first time I truly felt like my authentic self, I couldn’t describe it. Still to this day when I recount my time in London, I say I “fell into what I wanted to be” “I changed into the person I felt like I have always was” because after feeling different for so long, it was great to feel the strength I always had at my core finally radiating a golden hue.

My native language isn’t going anywhere, but even if English is something many people know, that doesn’t mean we erase the languages that are so important to the histories of others. I’ve always appreciated that there is no national language of the United States because I never understood why others would say “you’re in America, speak English” to someone speaking a foreign language to their own. Irradicating someone’s culture isn’t necessary, but encouraging language diversity, education, and literacy are essential.

I urge my readers and followers to pick up a book today. I want you to read a page, a chapter, or the entire thing. I want to know what book you choose, what you learned from your moments reading, and how it made you feel.

I urge my readers to write something today for yourself. Write down your grocery list on paper, an encouraging quote on a Post-it note to place on your computer screen, or a letter to a loved one.

I want my readers and followers to take from the gift of literacy and do something positive with it today. Happy International Literacy Day!

 

First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types’

While an autumnal spice blend and rich pumpkin scents are thrown throughout my small New York City apartment, I enjoy the pitter-patter of rain on my bedroom window, over-cast skies, and Tom Hank’s narration of his first collection of short stories, Uncommon Type: Some Stories.

Because my morning started off with Tom Hank’s recognizable cadence and meticulous character interactions, it must mean that September’s book-of-the-month read has begun. To commemorate my monthly book club, my best friend selected Uncommon Types: Some Stories as the book well will discuss at the end of the month. However, before I release my final thoughts, I felt that should I preface my first ever book review post with a first-glance into my initial impressions.

I’ve grown up with Hank’s and his witty sense of humor, eclectic characters, and oscar-worthy acting. I am always up for a Hank movie marathon and can be found quoting the movies of his I have seen an uncountable amount of time. Many of you may know that You’ve Got Mail is one of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite movies. I grew up dreaming of autumns in New York and love that

Weirdly enough, I found myself living the plot of the film. To this day, I still remember the moment I FaceTimed my mother and flipped the camera to show a non-contextual aerial shot of a Starbucks from above. “Do you know what this is?” I asked. She replied, “You’ve Got Mail.”

“No,” I said, “that’s the Starbucks next door.” I grew up religiously watching the movie besides her, and she smiles whenever my life relates to the rom-com now. I found my current heartthrob online, I live in the UWS with him where I occasionally zip my credit card through the credit card machines at Zabar’s, but at the apex of it all I spent one summer working with the corporate team of the IRL Fox Books.

Up until the summer of 2018, the nostalgia watching the film focused around my childhood and my relationship with my mother more so than the growing pains surrounding what life used to be.

Ever since You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story, and The Polar Express entered my list of top watched movies, I wondered how he would turn out to be a writer. I still am curious to see how his love for story-telling and affinity for typewriters would mix when he channeled an inner author.

With the book being released in October of 2017, it is currently ranking at an average of 3.45 stars from 24,724 ratings  and 4,532 reviews on Good Reads; with some of the top reviews mentioning “these stories are aggressively competent and aggressively bland.” In total, Uncommon Types: Some Stories is “a collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.”

Because at the root of it, the reason I bought this book because I knew the author because he is an actor. After just completing The Road by Cormac McCarthy, national bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I knew this story may pale in comparison. That’s okay because there is always something to appreciate from another’s writing style.

Hank’s may never win an award for his literary feats, but from the two short stories I have read, I have enjoyed them both for a lazy day spent in bed enjoying Tom Hank’s narration as I read along.

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks”: Two best friends decide to enter in a romantic relationship, but even after the first night together, readers can feel their incompatibility. Read to discover how an authoritative, busy-body creates a regime for a laid-back, home-body.

“Christmas Eve 1953”: An incredible recount of a cold Christmas Eve that harps on joy, belief in tomorrow, and the healing wounds of a past filled with physical and psychological trauma.

Both stories stay true to the movies Tom Hank’s stars in, and the humor he uses to keep readers following along. The nostalgia of typewriters remains a theme throughout both stories, which I am happy to see since I know Tom Hank’s is a fond collector.

There are still fifteen short-stories for me to dive into, and although at times the crisp short sentences and dimmed imagery can pull away from the reader’s attention, Hank’s makes up for it with a handful of beautifully crafted paragraphs to leave the readers wanting to know more about the characters he described.

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of September where I unravel the ends of September’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce October’s read!


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