People just want to be understood.

This post is inspired by an event that I witnessed on the London underground train. The event left me with an urge to perfect the art of listening for the people in my life. I wanted to share this to help others become better listeners and as a result develop better relationships.

It was an ordinary evening on my way home from work, the trains were packed and my top lip had developed a natural highlight from the sweat (sexy, I know). Somehow I managed to squeeze onto the train and started the natural process of untangling my headphones. This was the usual thing for me to do, listening to some soulful rap after a long day of work, numbing the pain of the rat race (oh and of course block out the other people).

As I was about to press play to some Tupac, I could hear some people arguing. This definitely wasn’t the norm. People in London, under no circumstances, talk to each other on the trains. Londoners have this agreement, we all understand that we have to stand within very close proximity of each other on the underground and yes, it is totally invading personal space. But, it is the price we pay to get home as fast as possible. 

So anyway, it became apparent that one particular man (we shall call him man A) was irritated at another (man B) because he had supposedly pushed him. Now my thought process was the following: this was something so trivial as it was rush hour and we were in central London, everybody is going to get pushed, it was inevitable. The incident escalated quickly and man A started shouting abuse at man B. Man B took this all in his stride and just remained calm. The situation continued and eventually the train stopped and both men were asked to get off by security. At this point, everybody was very angry at man A for making such a scene and delaying everybody’s journey. Man A refused to leave the train, insistent that he was the victim. 

A lady on the train then proceeded to shout at him to leave because everybody wanted to get home as fast as possible. It was his response that completely changed my thought process ‘at least you have a home to get to’ while pointing at the logo on his top. 

It was this moment where I realised that man A is a big issue man. For those of you who don’t know what the big issue is, it’s a foundation which offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money by selling the big issue magazine. 

I and so many others on that train were so preoccupied with our own thoughts and feelings that we had missed the point. Man A had probably spent all day selling those magazines outside in the cold and had probably not made much money at all. He might have not even known when his next meal was going to be. The likelihood of man A using the trains regularly is small because he probably cannot afford to, as a result he is not familiar with the conduct (the pushing and shoving which comes with rush hour). Whereas man B was, judging by his suit, and so he could handle himself much better in that type of situation. 

Me and the rest of the people on that carriage that evening had misunderstood the situation. I ask of you to think of similar experiences in your life, past or present, where you have misunderstood and judged without thinking from the other person’s perspective. The ability to think outside of the box will save you so many arguments and will make you a better communicator with your friends, family and even strangers. Everybody just wants to be understood, but nobody is willing to listen.

Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting their own little battle, that you know nothing about.”

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