Harken: Olde English for “Active Listening”
Harken: To pay close attention to: to actively listen
We live in an era where technology is integral in our lives. Unimaginable advancements for humankind have been made via the technological realm. It has changed the fabric of our lives and the way we interact with one another. Technology is to be revered almost in a godlike manner, and similarly it is to be feared.
Turn on the television and watch a few shows about the future of technology, aliens on earth, artificial intelligence and government conspiracies involving all of those things and you will understand the infinite possibilities of a technology based future.
I love and hate technology, I love GPS and never get lost, I hate that people cannot listen anymore.
Out with the old, in with the new.
I embrace the advancements of technology but abhor the dissipated physical sense of community and the tendency to seek virtual communities.
I constantly feel as a stereotypical elderly person admonishing a teenager for texting during dinner. I argue with my husband in a constant revolving door of ‘you never listen to me…’ and his response is always ‘but I heard what you said.’
Listening versus hearing.
My argument is not for ‘hearing’ because the ears hear what they hear. My plea is for harkening, as antiquated of a word as ‘horse and buggy’ in a world where cars can drive themselves. To hark is to pay close attention, or to actively listen. Active listening involves reading body language and receiving the intent of what the other person is saying and doing. Listening is simply the ear doing its job.
Below are examples to differentiate hearing versus harkening:
Hearing: I was talking to my husband who was flipping through shows on Netflix, then conversing via text on his phone, he never looked at my face, made any kind of verbal response to my conversation, he didn’t even nod his head. I confronted him as I always do about how he’s on his phone and doesn’t pay attention to me. (I am not alone in this annoyance)
His nonverbal body language throughout the conversation was evasive, no eye contact, no verbal or nonverbal response or no physical contact. His ears were hearing before I confronted him, his brain was subliminally processing the information I was conveying. He was not wholly focused on anything, neither my words or his gadgetry, his attention was divided.
Listening: My one year old son has not been tainted by the need to be immersed in technology. He craves physical attention, he communicates with me, he harkens everything around him. Babies actively pay attention to everything because they are eager to learn about their environment and to socialize with the people around them.
My son’s nonverbal body language demonstrates wholesome focus, his eyes dart from my eyes, to my mouth, then to what I’m doing with my hands. He throws food down to watch the dog eat it. Although he only babbles, he loves to have conversations and mimic the sounds that he hears.
Intimacy between people is dissolving.
The intimacy I’m referring to is when an adult is crying, and their friend is so socially cued in that they understand when a hug or a glass of wine is warranted. I now see someone crying and their friend has an awkward look on their face as if saying ‘I have no idea what to do.’ People need other people and always have, nowadays we are often abandoned when we need people the most and hide behind an online profile to replace human affection.
Technology isn’t going anywhere, people will continue abusing it. But I urge you to remain human, embrace your emotions and feelings and most of all, I urge you to harken the people around you. Perhaps to succeed in a society where the norm is to call an organization and speak to a robot, you must harken other people and be an authentic and caring friend.