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City of Banjul
Sunday, April 14, 2024

You can’t give or recieve with a closed fist

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With Aicha

What are your needs? Oh, you could give me a long list of your needs, from money so you can pay your kids’ school fees, fish money, new shoes and clothes for the kids that never seem to stop growing, and so on. I could give you a long list too, but that is not the point. The point is to ask someone: what are your needs? How can I help you? Allow me to listen to you for a while so you can at least release some of your burdens. How often do we ask someone about their needs? We are fully occupied with our own needs, struggling to make ends meet so we forget to see each other. There is a difference between seeing each other and just looking at each other. If you see someone, you are interested in the personality – not what s/he looks like or how you can gain from approaching this person. If you take a quick look, measure this person from top to toe, look if this person has expensive clothes or not, if s/he comes in a fancy vehicle and so on, you might be interested in getting to know that person because you can gain something from her or him.
If you instead look the person in the eye, get to know him or her, you might be able to build up a good relation.

A friendship is not about what you can gain from the other part, it is about sharing and caring. This can be both a matter of material things, but mainly a friendship is on a deeper level. With a true friend you can speak about everything and you will always know that what you say in confidence stays with your friend. Some people count their friends by how many ”likes” they get on Facebook or Instagram. The more friends you have there, the more likeable you appear to be.

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When you feel down, when you don’t have any flashy picture to add to your profile, who are your true friends? Does it help to get a ”thumbs up” when you share your problems? It is very easy to comment on someone’s write-up with this sign, but how many are really there for you?
For some people it seems to be almost a competition to get as many ”friends” as possible on social media. Why do so few contact you to show that they really care? Maybe because it is convenient to press the ”like-button” and then move on in life. Contacting someone in distress might force you to committ to something you are not prepared for. What if the person begins to cry or tells you something you don’t know how to handle? That is a risk we will take, but the most important thing is always to remember that God created us with 2 ears and only 1 mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk.

We don’t need to come with solutions all the time, the most important thing is to listen.
I have found, through life experience, that there is a difference between men and women when it comes to speaking about something that troubles you.
Women turn things inside out and upside down in their strive to interpret the problem. We can speak about it over and over again, trying to find new angles and to understanding the source of the problem. Men listen to problem once, try to find a solution to it, try the solution and then leave it.

This can cause problems in a relation between a man and a woman. She wants to discuss the issue over and over again, it can even take a while before she comes back to it for a new round. This is making the man confused, he thought the problem was solved as she had finished discussing it. Little did he know that she was only taking a break to ”load some new ammunition”.

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Most of us women solve our problems after the same pattern: we begin with addressing the problem. If we don’t get any response, we nag about the problem. If that doesn’t help we nag louder and more often. If that doesn’t help you will find yourself in a very tough discussion. That discussion will easily be transformed to a fight. Fighting takes a lot of energy so after a while we stop fighting. Now we come to the tricky part where many men take the wrong turn. HE believes that the fight ended because she suddenly realized that he was right. SHE, on the other side, is only contemplating over the problem for a while until she has found more arguments. When this is done she will address the problem yet again and the next round has began. There is a saying that if a woman asks her man about something, he says no, and she says what, it is not because she didn’t hear what he said. It is about giving him the chance to change his answer.

What we need is to listen to each other with a will to understand. It’s so easy to jump in conclusions, and if you are a problem oriented person, you are occupied with finding a solution before the other part has even finished speaking. The solution we are giving maybe doesn’t suit the other part at all, but we feel satisfied that we have solved the problem. If you often hear someone telling you that you never listen, or that you don’t understand anything at all, it might be that this person is right.

You don’t want to accept that, but maybe you are wrong and the other part is right.
Or…. maybe you have interpreted the situation differently. It can be hard to change perspective, but it’s necessary. Look at the problem as you look at a view; if you look at a mountain from a distance it doesn’t look very high. If instead you stand near it, the mountain is huge and the challenge seems impossible to conquer. A problem can be too much to handle for one person, but with some perspective it might be possible to find solutions. If you have someone to talk to, someone you trust and have confidence in, the challenge could be manageable. Many times what you need is someone who is willing to listen to you.

What if you are the person who has a lot of opinions, but you feel that no one is listening to you? What if you have the best solutions for the worst problems, and still no one listens? How does it feel to be that person? What does the frustration do with you, how does it make you feel? All of us knows of that busybody who seems to see and hear everything and who doesn’t fear to share his or her opinion about it with anyone who is willing listen. It doesn’t matter if the issue, or matter, is not concerning that person at all; you will always be sure that you will hear about if from that person anyway.
The intentions can be good, but the way they are expressed will still irritate you. You feel like this person is reaching out to you, but s/he wears a boxing glove instead of giving you the bare hand.

It’s not easy to deal with a person like that, you can’t change that person, only your approach. Either you must be willing to take the fight, or avoid it.
What about if it comes to your beliefs, your religion or your life philosophy? Are you openminded enough to listen to others, even if you don’t agree with them? When I grew up I got a good training in sharpening my arguments as I was almost arguing with my mother. Maybe I should turn it the other way around, because she always found reasons to argue with me. My mum was very opinionated and in her mind she was always right and, of course, everyone else was wrong. I hated these constant battles in the place I called my home, because I could never relax and feel that I belonged somewhere. The good thing that came out of this is that I learned to sharpen my arguments.

One part in being stubborn is that you never give up on yourself. I refused to believe that I was as worthless as I was made to feel. I fled in to my books and learned that there are other ways of living, that other people don’t fight all the time, that other parents actually don’t hurt their kids physically or mentally. I learned to use my brain and to sharpen my arguments. I learned to listen to others and learn from them when they shared their opinions and / or beliefs. The world gets smaller at the same time when your mind gets more open. There are so many great things to explore and so many wonderful people to learn from. An open hand can both give and take.

It is easy to reject people who don’t believe in the same things as you, or who don’t share your opinions, but does that make life easier? Some people say that they have made up their mind and they will never change, but that only creates more trouble. Look at the political play ground; people are even prepared to go in to a physical fight for their opinions.
This happens still today and is that a part of a modern society? It’s embarassing that still people think it is okay to use a faul language or behave like cavemen when they don’t share the same opinions. When my sons were young I spoke to them about anything and everything. We spoke about life, friends, values and the most important thing: emotions. If you can’t express your frustration in words it’s easy to use your fists instead, but that’s not civilized.

In a civilized society we express our opinions and emotions in words. We listen to each other and treat each other with respect. We don’t have to agree all the time, but we must always respect each other. The democracy in the Gambia is still vulnerable and must never be taken for granted. We must learn to express ourselves in a civilized way and know that the young people will act as us. If we are good rolemodels the youth will learn from us how to behave. Behaving is not only a matter of doing your chores at home or avoid fighting with ones siblings. It is a matter of how to become a civilized membrer of the society. What we learn from our homes we will carry with us out in life.

Social media is a platform that can be very useful and we can get a lot of good and useful connections there, but it can also be used as a mental weapon where you can even be anonymous and hurt a lot of people. When we come to political leaders of different sorts, we must expect from them to act as rolemodels. A dignified behaviour where we choose the way we express ourselves is to prefer. Trashing each others arguments, parties or party members is to go low instead of staying high.

If we wish others to listen to us we must also show them the same respect. It is easy to get upset, and it’s natural, but we can choose how we act. A reaction doesn’t automatically have to lead to action – there can be a filter in between and that filter is called civilized manners. Don’t let the reptil brain rule your life, your brain is much larger than so. Open up for others and you will recieve a lot.

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