Have we forgotten how to listen?

Sunday regular Peter Leith says he is “half blind and half deaf”, but that has only added to his insights. In a continuation of his Aspects of Ageing series, the 90-year-old bemoans the lost art of being a good listener.


These days, conversation itself is a dying art. These days, the focus, at all communication levels, is on “speaking as many words as you can as loud as you can as fast as you can”.

 Knowing how to be a good listener is dying through attrition.

Here are a few suggestions as to how you can improve your performance. Perhaps pass them on to children and grandchildren.

  • Look each speaker in the face. If you tire of watching their eyes, switch to their nose or mouth but keep on looking at them.
  • Raise one (or more) eyebrows from time to time to show that you are surprised, interested and still listening to what they are saying.
  • If you enjoy competition and want to risk trying to get a word in, utter, “Really?” and combine it with a rising inflection in your voice and one, or more, raised eyebrows.
  • If or when you get tired of the conversation, you can always fall back on the ever-reliable all-purpose nod. It fits all situations.
  • On leaving, be sure to thank the speaker for the ‘interesting conversation’.

I find it easy to follow this routine because I am deaf. You may find it more difficult.

Do you believe the art of conversation is dying? Have smartphones and other devices changed conversations irrevocably? Are you a good listener?

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