My father keeps a file in his wardrobe. This file has my named stencilled boldly on the outer jacket. In this file, he keeps every report sheet I’ve gotten. This file goes as far back as Kindergarten. One random Saturday afternoon when I was 16 or thereabouts, I was bored so I decided to rifle through it. Technically it was my property, so I might as well entertain myself. At first the Teachers comments amused me. A nursery school report sheet said “She can identify her alphabets but cannot write them”. Well dear teacher, I’m happy to inform you that right now I’m pretty decent at writing the alphabets. As I flicked through the secondary school sheets, one comment started to occur frequently. “She is a talkative”. There were several variations of this comment. For instance “She is too restless” or “She needs to pay attention in class”.
I remember how annoyed I felt seeing those comments term after term. At some point I convinced myself that the teachers were out to get me. Who cares if I talked too much? For goodness sakes my grades were stellar. Even when I didn’t try too hard, I managed to make the top three in my class. I just didn’t get it. This one comment irked me, I had placed second in biology in my entire year that term and the teacher had the effrontery to write “She can do a lot better”. Now I got mad. Was this woman high on something? The boy, who placed first, bested me with a couple of marks. Why was my second place finish not good enough? At this point I’d like to add that a lot of people considered me the Biology teacher’s pet. I thought so too, but after seeing that comment I started to doubt it.
The unpleasant comments started to get to me. This wasn’t fun anymore, so I closed the file and deleted the memory of ever reading its’ contents. Sometime later in University, on the campus shuttle back to the hostel, the memory of that file sauntered into my consciousness. Then I decided, very well, how about we try it their way. I talk too much? I can do a lot better? Alright, let us see if I can talk less and do a lot better. I began to make a conscious effort not to talk so much anymore. I decided I had exercised my mouth muscles enough in secondary school and it was only fair I give it a rest and let my ears get buff instead. When I needed to talk I would but only in my mind. I’d let the words play around in my head a couple of times and then I’d realize there was no need to say them out loud.
If you were to take a poll right now, on “my talkative-ness” I dare say you’d be pleasantly surprised. It got so bad that in my third year that a friend advised that I talk to people more often, lest they think me a snob. Now you see the thing is, in my three years of listening I had learnt more than in the previous sixteen years. Because I was so quick to interrupt a speaker with my own opinions, I realize that I never really heard what they were trying to say. Sometimes when people talk to you, they don’t need you to say anything they just need you to listen. I’ve also learnt that most times before a friend shares a problem with you, they already have a solution in their head. The problem is that they are too distressed to arrive at it on their own. When you’re patient enough to let them talk, they will reach it, without any input from you. In the rare moments when a friend is completely clueless, if you pay close attention to their every word, you will be better placed to offer sound advice.
It has been five years since I decided to listen more than I speak and it has been amazing. I find that I know things I don’t remember researching. I’ve also become very perceptive. Sometimes I tell my friends that I’m psychic. This is because 80% percent of the time I can already tell what they were about to say, before they utter a word. I am still talkative yes, but only on twitter and in my head. I am a lot wiser and more focused because I decided to LISTEN. We all have a million things to say and we all want to be heard. Well the world is listening and trust me we hear you loud and clear. But consider that sometimes, the world is speaking and needs you to listen, but you’re too busy talking to hear it speak.
When I was sixteen I didn’t understand why I needed to listen. Now I’m twenty-two and I’m thankful that I finally get it. Besides whenever I feel that urge to spill my guts, I find that ranting on twitter or sending a post to 360nobs, helps accomplish this. Now I can snack on a piece of chicken rather than talk myself breathless, and amazingly the world still hears me loud and clear. Fret not, there will always be talkers, and they will need listeners. And so students, the moral of today’s lesson is “two trumps one”. In plain English, you have two ears and only one mouth. Go figure. As for the “I can do better part” I am on a mission to make my Biology teacher proud. I have become very uncomfortable with second place. My new mantra is “Be the best”.
P.s. Dear Reader, I’m still focused on writing only when I have something to say thing and not just when I feel like it, so please forgive my tardiness.
Thank you for reading.