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August 23, 2019 Friday 06:04:18 PM IST

51st Rajagiri Round Table:Listening Skills Should Become Part of Curriculum

Photo of Rajagiri Round Table 51  by Ajeesh Cherian for Pallikkutam

Communication skills should become part of the school and college curriculum and art of listening should be mastered by everyone so that a good communication culture can be evolved, according to participants of the 51st Rajagiri Round Table (RRT) held recently on the topic, 'State of Communications-Need for a New Dialogue and Discussion Culture,'at Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology (RSET). 
Dr PR Poduval, former Director of School of Management Studies, CUSAT said that we have been teaching children how to communicate perfectly but not focussing on the art of listening. There is a tendency to react rather than respond which comes from lack of listening or attention to what is being said.The three of the common problems that cause problems in communication are -1) not allowing others to speak 2) character assassination and 3) putting the blame on others. 
Dr Job Kuruvila, academician and former Principal of Toc H Engineering College, said that our communication often doesn't get effective because our minds are filled with fear. And in an argument as against a healthy discussion, the emphasis shifts to who is right rather than what is right. Thereby lot of heat is generated but no light. Noted writer KL Mohana Varma talked about the issue of fear and survival instinct having an impact on the day-to-day communication. Now it is possible to change the truth through the modern social media communications where writing is no longer relevant while voice and video is used to deliver the message. 
Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Director of Rajagiri Media who moderated the Round Table said that the present era is the post-truth era where opinion, facts, knowledge, belief, emotions, fantasies are all put together to evolve the truth. This can be seen in the public discourses and also television talks. However, it is not a new phenomenon and this was identified by Frederick Nietzche himself. The roots of the communication problem starts from home where parents or head of the family uses authoritarianism rather than a democratic way of taking decisions impacting everyone in the family. 
Sindhu Tharayil, English language teacher of Rajagiri Public School, pointed out that digital noise is so overwhelming that voices get drowned and truth is hidden by fear leading to total break-down of communications. She said that as we have integrated sex education and health education in our school syllabus, the art of communication should also be included. 
Dr Thomas Ranjit, Paediatrician and Neonatologist at CIMAR Cochin Hospital said that the need for a dialogue assumes importance in an era where social media with the help of algorithms created by artificial intelligence shows only what you want to hear or read. It effectively shuts you off from alternative views and it all depends on how well you use the latest digital technologies that matter. It is a binary situation that has evolved-either you are with us or against us. The challenge is to have a middle path and it is important for us to communicate what we want to rather than impose our ideas on others. Dr Jacob Chacko, Professor Emeritus at CUSAT blamed the lack of healthy communication at home between parents and children behind the present break of down of communication in society. Most often problems arise because parents are not willing to spend time with children nor are children willing to listen to them. 
Diya Theresa Sunil, I year BTech Student of Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology said that children now face problems communicating with elders. 
Even as some speakers pointed out the adverse impact of technology affecting the emotional quotient of our communications, the general consensus was that even in the era of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the importance of communication hasn't diminished. We have the power to use technology constructively rather than becoming a slave of it. 
The event was attended by teachers, parents, students and experts from the field of psychology, corporate training, medicine and pedagogy. Dr Varghese Panthalookaran pointed out that it is time to evolve a communication culture which can be reflected in the deliberations of Rajagiri Round Table. This could become a role model for debates and discussion on public policy for the nation as a whole. "We have the Socratic tradition, Doha Round model before us, but in our continuing search for truth, we need to a evolve our own model based on listening to divergent views and synergising  by sifting the opinions, facts, beliefs and emotions from the information gathered by us".
(A detailed report with photos, suggestions and recommendations on this topic will be published in the September issue of Pallikkutam magazine and also made available in the e-magazine format)