s a former Handa WSD Fellow, I have an inner pure obligation to attend events of the Pacific Forum, my former Ohana in Hawai'i, USA, when I can. Accordingly, this year, my Family and I have participated in the 2019 Annual Pacific Forum Dinner where we had the honor to listen to the presentation by James George Stavridis, retired United States Navy Admiral. He served as the commander U.S. Southern Command (2006-2009), commander U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2009-2013) being the very first Navy officer to have held these mentioned positions. During his speech Admiral shared his views on the global security environment, its challenges and opportunities, mentioning Lithuania as an exemplary state for guiding world policies on cyber-security (!). Additionally, Admiral Stavridis throughout his presentation emphasized that it is of paramount importance for states to cooperate more efficiently, AND truly to be able to listen to each other. Our world came to the current state of chaos partly because of disinclination to consciously listen to what the other party has to say.
Later, I took part in the Pacific Forum Special Luncheon event featuring “A conversation on Brexit and Beyond: why what happens in Europe matters” with former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and WSD Handa Chair Ralph Cossa. For Lithuania, this topic is important as well since so many of our citizens immigrated to the United Kingdom. Moreover, Lithuania strongly stands for united Europe. (You might agree with me, Brexit, is becoming such a clumsy topic… One gets a huge headache simply by trying to really grasp and follow the logic behind its procedures. Currently, Brexit talks between the British Prime Minister Theresa May's government and the opposition Labour Party have broken down again, leading the UK further into the political disarray.)
PM Enda Kenny at the summary of his dialogue with Ralph Cossa stated that first and foremost the UK should have a clear vision of where it goes; all the parties involved have to make decisions once and for all by better LISTENING to each other. Simply as that. Better listening - a skill that may sound too conventional – could, in fact, be transformative for politics in the UK and globally. I absolutely agree with these final emphases of both presentations.
Upon returning from Hawai’i, I kept practicing conscious listening. The marvelous quote by Dalai Lama became the motto of my personal communication: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Moreover, I started reading Robin S. Sharma’s “Family Wisdom from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari“ where he shares five family lessons. In order to succeed in life, one needs to awaken own natural family leadership (both man and woman can be that leader WITHOUT competing). AND one of the five lessons emphasizes the need to become an active listener who is grateful and devoted. Ability to truly listen and hear is an art which always enhances mutual trust. Good listening, as it is said in the book, can highly enrich a family culture and bring unquestionably better understanding between people.
Indeed, if we think of our countries as the gatherings of families, we could apply the same principle. Good/ conscious listening is extremely essential not solely for personal culture, in the "politics" of our families, communities, neighborhood, but also for the politics of our countries at large. Unfortunately, we live in a noisy world with information overload where culture to “talk more and listen less” is cultivated. People listen to respond instead of listening to understand. The average person listens at only about 25% efficiency...
By employing active listening to our everyday lives (at home, at the Parliaments, the Presidential Palaces, at the G20, G7, at the BRICS, ASEAN, APEC, SAARC, ADB, WEF, etc.) we as people - the navigators of change - can make a real difference. Good listening leads to better understanding and to profoundly clearer decisions. A popular and often ignored principle audiatur et altera pars (all sides must be heard) is more than a stale Latin principle of the criminal law. It should be applied as an essential methodology in all levels of human performance: individual, national, and international.
Everyone, starting from scientists, journalists, historians, business people, lawyers, politicians, diplomats, AND family members, try at least for one day (for now :) ) to be a non-judging, intensely interested active listener without preconceived notions. You will see how the dynamics of your surroundings will change. Please lead by example.
What do I do?
First and foremost, every morning I dedicate at least 5 minutes to the following practice which becomes my meditation. I concentrate on active listening to all of the sounds around me: my baby Son talking and playing, a clock ticking, water tap running, breakfast cooking, on early weekend mornings I also get to hear my Husband snoring <3 etc). In such a manner I activate my conscious listening without falling into other thoughts. Such simple practice continues helping me to be a better communicator.
Why is it important to me?
I still have a long way to go in order to say I am a perfect listener, but a long journey starts with the very first step. I want to be a good example for my Son and for others; children imitate everything they see/ hear/ feel, especially in their families. Conscious listening creates understanding, empathy, trust, and bonds. Bonding with your family members in a totally different level is an aspiration, isn't it? Finally, great leaders know that listening can be more empowering than speaking. We are the leaders and teachers to each other. You and I can enhance the communication culture in our countries by starting from ourselves. And maybe one day, politicians, scientists, journalists, historians, business people, lawyers, diplomats, family members, and all of the "g80s" will truly be capable to listen better, understand each other better, AND find solutions easier to all of the world problems of mutual concern.
Thank you very much once again dear Dr. Handa, Midori, Louanne and Ralph for the opportunity to constantly learn, to share ideas, visions, knowledge, and to further extraordinary educational experience.