I sat down in my favorite restaurant with my friend. We were having a discussion about places we would like to go and clothes we liked to wear. I asked for a weird combination: a cup of Earl Grey tea and a slice of pizza.
When I got my tea, it was English Breakfast. I was upset, but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I thought about how often we don’t listen to people or don’t want to understand them. In the meantime, I wasn’t listening to what my friend was telling me . . .
If it was me who wasn’t heard, I would be very offended. Why are we, people, so selfish?
We like to listen to things we agree with. “Thanks, I’m happy that you like my new dress. I bought it today,” a woman says happily, smiling at the gentleman complimenting her. If he said, on the contrary, “I think this color doesn’t suit you,” she would, most likely, give him a scornful look – even if he was right and she knew it. We don’t like to be criticized. But then how would we know that we are not doing as well as we could be?
I think the problem is that we take criticism as something purely negative. We believe that people don’t like us personally when they notice that our clothing doesn’t look nice or that we speak too loudly. However, in most cases, people who share their opinion with us are those who love us, who want to make us better, who kindly point out our mistakes so that we may correct them. We should listen to become better.
You may ask: shouldn’t we be faithful to our own opinion and choices? But how do we form an opinion? We make decisions based on agreement or disagreement with others. As far as I’m concerned, I chose a journalism major because I love to write, I am good at it, and I want to become even better. I need to be able to write in different genres, and I would love to write efficiently in at least three languages. So when I was choosing a major, I decided that studying journalism would give me a new writing perspective: impersonal and objective. I didn’t want to become a lawyer or a nurse like everybody else, even though many people advised me to go for something “more profitable.” I knew that even having a lot of money would not give me the self-satisfaction I get from writing.
But I listened to them, and I understand and support those people who think that money matters. I just also understand that liking what I do is more meaningful for me.
The simple truth: we don’t have to agree. We just need to listen to others; it helps to be more open-minded. If the only culture and mentality you know is your own, how would you know and appreciate your next-door neighbors in a city like New York, where everyone is different. Diversity helps us and at the same time, requires us to listen and understand.
As I was thinking about all that, my friend got angry at me because I did not hear what she said. In the meantime, the waiter came back with the right tea, and I told my friend, “I’m sorry, honey, I got upset about the tea.” She nodded.
And I kept pondering what was more important: her narrative, or my thoughts about listening and diversity.

EKATERINA LALO is a writer for Campus Clipper. You can read more of her thoughts on life and love in the Campus Clipper guidebook, “NYC Student Guide” due out this fall 2010.

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