Listening with the ear of the heart: do people listen to us?

15-year-old shares frankly what youths seek when they ask to be listened to

Prince Edward Viaduct, Toronto, Canada

Photo by Warren Wong

Photo by Warren Wong

This story is part 3 of the series "Listening with the heart through generations" in which 11-15 year-olds tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how they found strength and inspirations to endure through decades of hardship and heartbreaks.
In partnership with Dreikönigsaktion Austria

15-year-old Philabet Rynjah shares hers and other youths' frank opinions on what it means to be listened to while also "listening with the ear of the heart".

She is currently studying at Auxilium Girls' Higher Secondary School, Nongthymmai, Shillong, Meghalaya, India.

Holy Father, Pope Francis on the occasion of the 56th World Communication Day of 2022, has chosen the theme: ‘Listening with the ear of the heart’.

According to him, we are losing the ability to listen to others in our day-to-day life. So, “Listening” has become a challenging phenomenon to educators and formators, parents and teachers, pastors and pastoral workers, communication professionals and people who carry out social service and political service.

He emphasized the quality of listening, saying: “Listening is decisive in the grammar of communication and is a condition for genuine dialogue.”

He said 'Listening is the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication'.

We are now living in a post COVID-19 world where many things have changed and many things are also still the same. Schools, colleges, businesses have reopened again and life is almost back to normal.

We, the young people are looking at the world from a different perspective.

We are confident and insecure, happy and sad, we feel accepted and rejected at the same time. What we crave most for, is the need to be listened to by parents, teachers and adults.

The need to be accepted as we are, without being judged. Many times, we are told what to do, what to say and what to believe. Then we are ignored, feared and disrespected.

When I was chosen by SIGNIS Asia to represent India and speak on the topic 'Listening with the ear of the heart' to a group of Catholic communicators, I thought of doing some research. I wanted to share not just my experiences but the experiences of some other young people like me.

Hence what I share here is also the experiences of some young people of the age group from 15 to 25 years.

They shared their experiences and opinions openly. When asked about the importance of listening, their answers were loud and clear. I wish to maintain anonymity while sharing the thoughts of those who contributed.

A young man walks towards the Taj Mahal. (Photo by Arash Bal)

A young man walks towards the Taj Mahal. (Photo by Arash Bal)

With the discussion on 'Why people should listen to what young people have to say?', everything got really interesting. Here are some of the points of view:

People should listen to what young people have to say because adults should understand that things are not the same as they used to be once upon a time.

We are a digital generation, digital natives – we are creative, we are innovative, we are open to one another, we are open to the diversity of cultures, traditions – which gives us a lot of opportunity to learn and understand each other better.

Often people think that we are the future. We are not only the future of the world – we are also the present of the world.

Young people can come up with innovative ideas, with creativity as some are great thinkers who can change the course of history. We are the new generation who have much to contribute by way of new ideas and newness of life.

In spite of being connected through our digital device, nowadays, almost all the young people go through depression as they are lost in their own world.

Depression is a cause of suicide. Many young people give up their life because no one is there to listen to their problems.

When adults listen to us, we feel encouraged, we can face problems and difficulties, we feel wanted, loved and respected and we want to give our best, contribute our share, we feel we are ready for any sacrifice. 

People should listen to young people because the young generations bring youthfulness, joy, happiness and newness.

When adults listen to us we feel motivated, enthusiastic, disciplined, determined and also passionate about everything we do.

We want to contribute our ideas and suggestions to improve various systems and ways of life.

Young girl using white over-ear headphones. Photo by Katie Gerrard
Photo by Loren Joseph

When people listen to us, we feel confident and that helps us build our self-esteem.

When we are listened to, we feel more courageous to break the walls of our hearts and we are willing to share our problems and difficulties, our innovative ideas and contribute our share to make our world a better place.

This will help to create  a more cordial environment between us and adults.

I think if given the right opportunity, guidance and support, young people can do a lot of things that can benefit the community, society, the country and the world at large.

We have the ability of doing many great things. We  care for the nature, our mother earth – our common home, we are kind to all  irrespective of caste, creed and social status, we can spread love.

Young people can raise awareness about environmental problems, abuses, inequality, exploitation.

Young people are capable of doing great and wonderful things because we share our own thoughts, ideas and opinions openly with everyone and we have the confidence to do so.

We are more ready to volunteer and be part of the change in society.

Often we are easily misunderstood.

As young people we want a space where we can share our inner truth and be vulnerable without being judged. We want to share our innermost truth to seek a safe space where judgement is kept at bay, emotions are respected and stories are heard with empathy.

We want to discover our talents and strengths. We want to make a tangible difference.

Nowadays, we are disturbed by constant negative news, dishonesty, frauds and inequality. We do not have any say in the decision-making processes of governance, public policy, educational curriculum etc.

We dream of a better world where we are taken seriously, where our opinions are counted, where our ideas are respected. After all, it is our world and we want to make our world a better place.

Photo by Providence Doucet
Photo by Jaikishan Patel

Young people are a storehouse of limitless possibilities. We can create a more positive society - a society where voices are heard and where we can  share our creative ideas to generate positivity.

We would like our parents, teachers and elders to listen to us, guide and accompany us, because we have a lot of energy, positivity, ideas and insights. 

We can unite each other and help one another. We can form youth groups and strive to promote peace, to stop discrimination, to teach everyone about the importance of being more supportive and independent.

We can reach out to other young people around the world through social media and create social groups or NGOs that work to end poverty, rape, discrimination against women, unemployment and many other social problems.

Children raise their Rosary beads before the start of a prayer marathon in a Catholic school in the Philippine capital Manila during the 2018 "One Million Children Praying the Rosary" campaign. (Photo by Maria Tan for

Children raise their Rosary beads before the start of a prayer marathon in a Catholic school in the Philippine capital Manila during the 2018 "One Million Children Praying the Rosary" campaign. (Photo by Maria Tan for

Pope Francis says 'Fundamentally, listening is a dimension of love'. When we listen to someone speaking their heart out to us, it is a sign of love that we have for that person.

When the elders listen to us and not just hearing us out, we automatically get the message that they care for us and we feel important.

Pope Francis also said in his message 'Do not have your heart in your ears but your ears in your heart'.

That is the plea of the young people too.

We want people to listen to us with not just the ears open but also with their hearts open. We want them to understand us and not to judge us.

We don't want them to tell us what to do and what not to do or compare us with themselves, their age.

We are different, times are different and definitely the challenges are different.

When someone speaks to us it is important that we listen not just with the ears but also with the heart because it is the heart which listens to the words of the speaker and understands their needs, requirements, ideas, opinions.

We young people, are grateful to God, for the gift of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who always listens with the ears of his heart. He understands us, he expresses care and concern, he makes us feel great and his words of encouragement are truly heartwarming.

I would like to conclude with his words: “Listening “is much more than hearing” – “listening means paying attention, having the desire to understand, to give value, to respect, to treasure the words of others.”

During his international trip to Mexico, while speaking to the young people of the city of Morelia, he said that when a friend finds him or herself in difficulty, it is necessary to stand beside them and listen: “Don’t say: ‘I have the solution for you’.

Give them strength by your listening, that medicine which sadly is being forgotten: ‘the therapy of listening.’ What is needed, is an “apostolate of the ear.”

Thank you.

Voices of Youths

Woman holding a sparkler

Photo by Jamie Street

Photo by Jamie Street

'It is very important to listen to someone who pours his/her heart out because, listening to his/her story/ experience/opinion might save that person's life especially when he/she is reaching out to us, at their lowest point in life'.

'When we listen with the heart, we get a different perspective of what others think and when we analyze what is spoken then we understand, those opinions matter'.

'When we listen we can interact and cooperate better.’

'Listening avoids misunderstandings and chaos and helps us as individuals to understand the other person's opinion better'.

With regard to whether parents/teachers/elders listen to what young people have to say, the responses were overwhelming.

'Many times we want our parents and elders to listen to us. However we do not think they try to listen or even hear us, as they often have a fixed mind-set of 'being older is being more correct'. They tend to think that when we share our opinions or defend our points of view, we are answering back or we are being disrespectful to the elders.’

'Parents and elders don't want to listen to us since they don't trust us easily'.

'Parents do hear us but they do not listen to our problems, for example they don't listen to the worries and anxieties edged in our voices. They can't sense the turmoil in our thinking. They miss the state of our mental health! They want us to be successful persons in life but they don't understand the struggles we are going through. We do want to open our hearts to our parents and elders but many times it's difficult because we fear of being judged'.
A young man looking at the sunset on top of a mountain range
Daughter sits on father's shoulders looking at sunset by the water
'I think that our parents should listen more to our sorrows and sadness than our success story. They sometimes don't listen with their hearts, but jump to judgmental conclusions'

'Parents are always willing to listen to our success story but when we tell them about what we want in life they don't want to listen. They feel that they know better and they have all the answers.”

'When we are being listened to, the elders will know what we need and how we feel and what we are going through. Sometimes we are not given a chance to express our thoughts and emotions because the grown-ups think that not all of our conversations are important. Often, we are overpowered by their voices.” 

'Sometimes because of the mistakes we have made in the past, our parents and elders lose trust in us and they decide not to listen to our suggestions and needs'

'Yes, I would like my parents, teachers and elders to listen to what I have to say because as a young person I want to share my opinions, contribute my ideas, my points of view and my perception and when they listen to what I say, I feel respected'.       

Photo by Natalya Zaritska.

Photo by Natalya Zaritska.

‘We would love to have adults listen to us because all opinions matter and adults must avoid thinking that they are always right. If they listen, they can understand us better and they can guide and accompany us. When parents, teachers and  adults listen to what we have to say then they can guide us through our trials and tribulations. We want them to know that we depend on their guidance and support to make wise and correct decisions. That is the way, they can also train us to learn the art of listening.’

'We want people to listen to us, so that, we don't have to cage up all our problems and emotions inside us'.

'Sometimes people think just because we are young whatever we say doesn't really matter and they think it's irrelevant. They should understand that we too have our feelings, opinions and our decisions, which should be valued too. The only thing that we want from parents, teachers and elders is for them to listen to what we have to say. We don’t want them to solve our problems. By listening with the heart they can calm our fears and anxieties and we are able to make wise decisions in our life.”

Photo by Helena Lopes.

Photo by Helena Lopes.

Listening with the ears of the heart applies not just to the adults but also to us,  young people. Do we listen when our friends speak to us? The young people were very open with the responses.

'We totally enjoy having our friends listen to us and vice versa. This helps to create interest among us and we share knowledge about each other and that helps to create a special bond between us'

'Friends listen, comfort and empathize with us. That is the reason we value friendship so very much in our life. When we listen to our friends we are able to reach out to them and help them'.

Thai schoolchildren from a local Catholic school waiting to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis outside Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport on Nov. 20. (Photo by Adisorn Intarasuebwong/LICAS News)

Thai schoolchildren from a local Catholic school waiting to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis outside Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport on Nov. 20. (Photo by Adisorn Intarasuebwong/LICAS News)

'When we listen to each other as friends we are very supportive and non- judgmental'.

'Friends are the more open side of the communication circle. With friends, we can speak about stuff that parents might not really consider logical'.

The university students waving Thai and Vatican flag

Thai university students welcome Pope Francis on his Apostolic Visit to Thailand, November 2019 (Photo by Pinyo Tawinwat/LiCAS.News)

Thai university students welcome Pope Francis on his Apostolic Visit to Thailand, November 2019 (Photo by Pinyo Tawinwat/LiCAS.News)

With generous support from Dreikönigsaktion Austria


Aid to the Church in Need

Text by Philabet Rynjah

Published September 26, 2022

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"Running through the trees". (Photo by Jed Villejo)

"Running through the trees". (Photo by Jed Villejo)