Chapter 23 » 23.76

The individual and the community


The capacity to listen is something which is greatly needed and is an important part of our education, something which has to be worked at constantly. We so easily fall into a pattern of imagining we know what someone else is going to say to us. Sometimes this is the case, but more often than not we have made up our mind, and received a message which may be completely erroneous and precludes a true understanding. We must have all experienced the circumstances in which a child tries to make himself understood and in which we have prejudged what is his meaning. In that case we never meet. There is one occasion which stands out very clearly in my life when a youngster kept coming up to me and I answered what I thought the question was going to be; at the end of a week she stood resolutely between me and the door clutching a piece of paper asking if she could discontinue my lessons. All that time I had been answering an unasked question and missing the point of contact. This is something which most of us do all too often in one way or another: we have a duty to try to help each other to communicate. We must endeavour to meet each other’s minds and we must attempt to achieve not only sympathy but empathy.

D June Ellis, 1981

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