Listening with rapt attention – lazy reading – war

Friday 11 November 1664

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to the Council Chamber at White Hall, to the Committee of the Lords for the Navy, where we were made to wait an houre or two before called in. In that time looking upon some books of heraldry of Sir Edward Walker’s making, which are very fine, there I observed the Duke of Monmouth’s armes are neatly done, and his title, “The most noble and high-born Prince, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, &c.;” nor could Sir J. Minnes, nor any body there, tell whence he should take the name of Scott? And then I found my Lord Sandwich, his title under his armes is, “The most noble and mighty Lord, Edward, Earl of Sandwich, &c.”

This gives us an insight in to Pepys active mind. Instead of sitting waiting and staring at the ceiling he seeks something to occupy his mind, namely books of heraldry.  I would flip through the latest magazines in the dentist’s waiting room or simply do nothing. Not that you can ever do nothing because you exist and that’s a full time job.


I was reflecting on ‘listening’ as opposed to ‘hearing’.

We are born with functioning ears but listening is a skill that we need to learn.  The main problem – apart from the speaker being boring – is that we think faster than people talk so there is a temptation to fill in the gaps with focus on other matters. If people hear, process and absorb 25% of what we say then we are doing well.  Do we need to consider how to keep our speaking interesting. Maybe it should be in the form of telling a story where the listener is more likely to follow a thread and hang on every word.  Question – what sort of conversation do you NOT like to listen to.

I love the saying ‘he listened with rapt attention’. That means you have their attention.  What does ‘rapt’ mean? It means “completely fascinated or absorbed by what one is seeing or hearing”. There needs to be an element of self interest if someone wants my rapt attention or I really have to care for the person who is speaking or the talk could be an exploit or adventure that activates the imagination. Putting it another way, we need to give people a headline, an incentive, a reason for wanting to engage.

There is a also the question of timing. When I call on the phone I always ask if it is a god time to talk. Are they cooking the proverbial omelette. If someone is pre-occupied they may not have any time or energy to focus on you, however interesting your thoughts.  Your intuition should tell you

I am reminded that when people say “I hear what you say” there is a ‘but’ included in it. I hear, BUT I disagree. I distance myself from what you say although I heard it.  I am not even going to bother to reply. We are miles apart. There is a good article in the Independent on the matter.

Some people pretend to listen by doing what I call the ‘nodding donkey’. This is supposed to send out messages that ‘I am here for you’ but it is mostly fake. Their eyes will dart over your shoulder trying to spot the next person they wish to speak with. I think you can actually feel if the person is listening to you because they surround you with their presence.

Do I listen to people?  Yes I am capable of it but a pre-cursor is that there needs to be a certain basic  chemistry.  I need to like what I feel and here many people fail the test. If I feel they are judgemental, self centred, pre-occupied or tense then I don’t even bother to try to engage. I need a 50/50 situation or maybe 60/40. I am looking for a certain amiability, a certain openness before I can summon the spirit to attempt to converse with a stranger. Oh I nearly forgot to mention. In the street if people are on their mobiles or have headphones plugged in their ears, they might as well not be there so far as I am concerned.

When I listen to people – yes I am capable of it if I want to – I absorb and then reply. Some are quite shocked.  They did not expect to be listened to. They are more used to delivering monologues to thin air almost as an act of vanity which may or may not be taken seriously.  I find this at social parties and pub meetings which can turn into shouting competitions. Real listening immediately elevates the conversation to a dialogue, to a sharing of minds, to what might become a friendship or liaison. Perhaps the best way of defining a conversation is to identify what it is not, its antithesis.  Shouting at a car driver, arguing with the wife when you are both stressed out,  are good examples. We come back to our old friend bona fides  or on a good day ultra fides (utmost good faith) but then you have to be a special soul for this to apply.


I caught myself being a lazy reader. A newspaper article described ‘7  ways of being ripped of with overseas car hire’. and I was about to launch in to it when I thought ‘ hang on Brian, you probably knew most of them so you can use your BRAIN to try to recall’. I jumped out of my passive mode and started recalling.  Amazingly, after a few moments I got each point. You dear reader have probably read similar articles, do you want to have a go and see how many ways you can recall?


A pause to watch the annual Rememberance Day at the Cenotaph here in London. We take our history seriously and all is done with dignity, pomp and circumstance. This term refers partly to the occasion and partly to a march named after it.  I wish we did not have to have these unnecessary wars.

<rant on>  ‘The policy of the USA is war without end’. Very profitable war, pharmaceuticals, drug drugs and debt are the major pillars around which the economy of the USA revolves. If they don’t have real war enemies, they invent them witness the whole cult of the terrorist.  The USA has only started 42 wars since World War 2. There is a list somewhere which I will (re) publish when I can find it.In other words without the warmongering of the USA there would be no wars except perhaps in the Congo.<rant off>


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