In the book “When Man Listens” Cecil Herbert Rose tells us, “When men and women listen, God speaks. When God speaks, men and women are changed. When men and women are changed, nations change.”
Today in Nagaland, everyone wants to talk, but is anyone actually listening? The talking is based on an assumption that the louder and angrier one speaks, the more people listen. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The fact remains that Naga leaders and the government are not listening to people’s needs and problems, and the fragmented public voices seem to be talking only to themselves. Everyone is talking at the other, but not with each other. As a result, we have many talkers, but very few listeners and the Naga society remains deadlocked in an oppressive status quo.
We all say that we want positive change in Naga society. But, can change be brought about when we are not listening to each other? Not only are we not listening to each other, but we are not actually communicating the lived conditions of our situation, as well. Everyone interprets according to their own interests and conveniences. When we think we already know what there is to hear, we are deaf to and miss hearing new opportunities for real social change. These results in actions based on assumptions and preconceived notions, caused by faulty understanding of the problem.
One can say that casual listening is one of the easier human behaviors. At the same time, mindful deep listening is difficult to master. Mindful, active listening is humility in action. It requires sensitivity, patience, awareness and empathy. It means reducing some of the voices that already exists within us, as well as giving up preconceived ideas and value judgments in order to hear what is being said.
Mindful listening requires deep respect and genuine curiosity about situations with the willingness to create and open healthy spaces for people to freely and safely express their stories with dignity. This will open ways to understanding the situation anew, and will allow us to hear what needs to be done in that moment. It also allows us to hear and know when inaction is necessary. Such a process reveals the intimate relationship between listening and doing.
A mindful and active listening process presents a clear and shared analysis of the problem, thereby, enabling a more effective strategy. For instance, a doctor needs to listen in order to accurately diagnose an illness. A doctor needs to listen not only to what the patient is saying aloud, but also what they cannot say, and, more importantly what the body is saying. It is only after making an accurate diagnosis that the right treatment and prescription can be offered as an effective intervention.
An active and mindful listening process is at the heart of positive social change. We need to induce a situation where Naga leaders, government, national groups, civil society organizations, churches, traditional organizations and the public are all listening and learning from one another.
Now is time for Naga men and women to engage in respectful and mindful listening so that real social change is realized.