Edit desk: Don’t forget the power of listening


Madison Hoff

Although I am pretty quiet and find it hard to share my opinion in a large group of people, I find it is important to just listen to what everyone is saying no matter the circumstance.

It could be a professor giving a lecture, a discussion among students, a source answering a question or just family sharing a conversation over tea.

I love to just listen. During my four years at Lehigh, I found that listening has been valuable.

For instance, when I am interviewing someone for an article, it is more than just asking the source the questions that I prepared beforehand. I find some of the best information and quotes come from just listening to their responses and creating follow-up questions that I didn’t initially think of.

However, listening in journalism also happens outside of interviews. By attending an event or listening to students’ concerns, you can find a new story and find different angles by which to approach it from.

But listening is also helpful outside of my major.

When I was an incoming student, I was lucky enough to have older sisters to ask what college life is like, what to pack and what to expect. Whenever I had a question I would just go to my sister’s dorm room and she would listen to my worries as a first-year. But, not everyone has a family member to ask when they start in a new unfamiliar setting.

This is why I joined the peer mentor program in The College of Arts and Sciences as a sophomore and the Mentor Collective this past summer. In these programs, I get to answer first-years’ concerns, help them with registration questions and make sure they feel prepared before their first day at Lehigh.

It was exciting as most of the people I met in this program were international students or from the west coast. As we talked over Skype over the summer, I would spend an hour on the phone with each of my mentees just listening to their concerns.

Where will my classes be? What activities should I get involved in? How do I start to find a major that is best for me? What is there to do outside of the university? How do I get better at time management?

After the phone calls, they would tell me they felt ready for Lehigh as they checked off each of the questions they prepared for our Skype meetings. They liked that they had someone who went through college to share their experiences.

It was nice to help someone feel prepared and feel less anxious before they step onto campus for the first time. As the semester continues, I love to listen to what they have enjoyed so far and hear their four-year plans.

Outside of helping first-years, I love to ask how someone’s day is going. Even though people are usually in a rush going from class to class, it’s nice when someone does have the time to stop and talk about his or her day instead of just simply answering “I am good.”

Although I might not always have advice or a great response, I like to listen to the good and bad of people’s days because sometimes it is just nice to have someone to listen to you, especially when stress can be high during college.

One class that has challenged me to speak up in addition to listening is my journalism senior seminar about journalism and democracy. In the class, we talk about ways journalism helps social changes. Because the class is centered around discussions, it is important to not just speak your mind right away but also to listen to what each other is saying.

Sometimes I get so into listening to two people debate over an issue that I forget, eventually, I am going to need to share my opinion, too. The class allows me to just listen while I think of my own stance on an issue in my head before sharing it. I find sometimes my view might change depending on what views and examples people express.

Even after a busy day of attending meetings, going to work, taking notes in class and doing homework, I like to just listen to music or watch TV before I listen again to all that is around me the next day.

So although I might not always be the first one to speak or always share what I am thinking, I have learned to be a little less shy and to voice my opinions and questions more. However, I still think there is power in just listening.

Madison Hoff, ’19, is a managing editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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