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Book review: ‘Being There’ - Jerzy Kosinski
Author: Mriidu Khosla
According to the International Listening Association (Yes, there is a International Listening Association) most of us are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful about 75% of the time we should be listening. This is especially true for Chance, the Jerzy Kosinski’s main character in the novel “Being There”. Chance spends all of his day listening, not to other participating human beings, but rather radio and television. Chance is sheltered to all but few human beings, receiving all of his information inflow watching television.

Gathering and absorbing knowledge, but never really knowing the meaning behind the sound and imagery. His visual interpretations are weak but interaction strong. The media that is constantly surrounding him has slanted his perception of the world and the people living and functioning in it rendering his mind disabled on various unimaginable arenas. How could he ever form real relationships on the basis of what he considers to be “real” which actually is surprisingly and unfortunately “unreal”?

As Marshall McLuhan has stated “the medium is the message” but when the media is all one sided and doesn’t evolve and human contact the media can end up sending the wrong message. According to casework, by Mary Lazar, on the Novel Being There - shielding yourself from all human contact, listening or not listening in the end will distance yourself from reality.

Guy Harris, a Principle Driven Consultant has stated that effective listening goes beyond hearing someone’s words. Effective listening creates an environment where the other person feels that you understand them. The main character Chance is never given the opportunity to experience the understanding of another person since his media does not offer any emotional response. This in turn ends up affecting him and his communicational efforts after he is forced to leave the world he has become accustomed too. This is the point in the novel the real side effects of one - sided communications are highlighted.

The main question that arises at the end of reading ‘Being There’ is - Do you think that people who speak less and listen more are better communicators?

Needless to say that this can be answered only on circumstantial bases. Unresponsive or one - way communication shall hamper a human being’s power to get his/her point across. Indeed this book is an eye opener on the way we speak, listen, react and learn each day. Jerzy Kosinski has managed to answer a lot of queries on the backbone of a simple story of Chance.

A serious suggestion for those who mark immense importance to communication skills. If you attend meetings and conferences day in and out, or your main job is listening or giving speeches and lectures, this book shall guide you well into recognizing some details you might have missed out.

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