Is Anybody Listening?

by | Jun 9, 1998 | Listening

Last month, I read about a college professor who was leaving the office for several days. The man normally received a great deal of e-mail, and so he arranged for his e-mail program to automatically send a simple reply to anyone who sent him a message. Then he left.

The professor’s plan was great, except for one small thing he forgot: the dozen or so automated mailing lists he was on. This meant that whenever an automated e-mail was sent to his account, the account sent back the professor’s “out of town” message. Unfortunately, the automated system was not set up to handle this reply, which caused it to send the professor another message telling him so…which caused his account to respond with another message, and so on and so on….

E-mail traffic began to climb, until eventually the school’s e-mail system was handling more than 800 messages every five minutes, and crashed. System managers had to break into the professor’s account to fix the problem. I suppose we all knew it would eventually come to this: the machines are so busy talking to one another they don’t even have time to listen to us any more!

We have more ways to communicate today than ever before. We can communicate with the other side of the world as quickly as we can walk across the street. We can send a message to millions of people with the touch of a single button. We have pagers, cell-phones, modems, and e-mail, all designed to help us communicate.

But sometimes I wonder if, in spite of all our communication tools, we have lost the skill of communicating. Loneliness doesn’t seem to have abated. Despair seems to be at its usual levels. I heard recently about a woman who ran an ad in the newspaper offering to sit and listen to phone callers talk for 30 minutes for $5.00. Are we that desperate for someone to listen? Amazingly, the answer seems to be “yes.”

How are your listening skills? Are you too busy to listen, or do you make time for this most simple of loving gestures. Take a few minutes to listen to someone this week. You will do somebody a world of good.

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.

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Is Anybody Listening?