Stop, Look, Listen
From a childhood road safety game to the Stylistics and Elvis Presley to current communication techniques, the advice continues – stop, look, and listen. Occasionally this daily blog will group a series of posts together because of their content. Today (and Thurs and Fri preceding) is one such post.
Several years ago Mark McIntyre had the same idea I had about using street and railroad crossing safety as a means of better communication. “Stop – stop the self-focused mental process so that I can hear and understand what the other person is saying. Decide to really hear. Look – Look at the other person. Make eye contact. Observe his body language. Take in all the clues to communication. Listen – By stopping and looking, I am now in a position to listen.”
Stop, Look and Listen is the also the name of a short comedic film made by Oliver Norvell Hardy in the early 1920’s shortly before he teamed up with comedy partner Stan Laurel. Another film by the same name was made in the 1960’s which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject, Live Action category. This movie was also a comedy and contrasted the safe and dangerous styles of two drivers. The drivers were shown sitting in the street and seeming to move their bodies as though they were automobiles.
I mention these two films because they were, in their own way, forms of communication. Also communicating this phrase were two songs. The first was written by Joy Byers and recorded by Elvis Presley in the 1960’s. “You’d better stop real still, look both ways. Listen or you’ll get in trouble when you see her go struttin’ by giving you that evil eye and she’s got a kind of dreamy look. You’d better stop real still, look both ways; listen or you’ll get in trouble.” A decade later the Stylistics sand a song by the same title, written by Jeremy Noel, William Abbott, Thomas Bell, Grant Black, Linda Creed, And Craig David. Their chorus was “Stop, look, listen to your heart, hear what it’s saying. Stop, look, listen to your heart, hear what it’s saying – Love, love, love.”
Very few people actually enter into a conversation with intentions of creating hate. Most simply want to get a point across or express their opinion. It all goes awry when we fail to stop our own self-focused mental process so that we can hear and understand what the other person is saying. I am not talking about giving polite non-focused attentive looks at the other person. I mean when you really decide to not just hear their voice but listen to their words. We do this by first looking at the other person and making eye contact. Then we are able to observe their body language. Communication is much more than just words being uttered. We need to take in all the clues to communication. By stopping and looking, we are now in a position to listen. Now communication, real communication, can occur.
Think about over the past week. When did you give someone your undivided attention? I realize you lead a very busy life and that there are many things pressing for your attention. Did you really make that other person a priority or was your crossword puzzle or TV show or book more important? Someone recently told me they knew what I was trying to say because they were looking at the back of my head. Interesting, since I did not realize I had a caption scroll that played on the back of my head. Of course, I do not and the person had no way of knowing what my facial expressions were.
We need to stop making excuses, look at how we are communicating and then listen to each other. We also need to seek out ways to really stop our busy lives, look at the beauty of life around us and listen to what is going on. For example, The Menil Collection, an art museum in Houston, TX, features Stop, Look, and Listen concerts. These are free chamber and jazz concerts open to the public at the museum which are designed to feature unconventional, interactive concert formats and fun, adventurous musical selections. Often designed to celebrate specific artwork on display in the museum, these concerts encourage us all to stop, look, and listen while we enjoy life.
Your local probably has similar offerings and if it doesn’t, why not help create some? Aspiring sidewalk artists are a great way to stop, look, and listen as are subway musicians. Once we develop the habit of slowing down enough to stop, then we are able to see the beauty that often passes us by and listen to the vibrancy of life.