In the last post of our idiom series, we talk about an unusual idiom today. The phrase “lend me an ear” is not very common, and yet it is deep-rooted in the English language. Does it mean that when someone says this to me, I’m required to saw my ear off and hand it over to them for a few minutes? Or am I expected to attach my head to theirs so that they can borrow the services of my hearing for the time being? Or is it something entirely different?
In the simplest of terms, to lend someone an ear means to listen to them. This applies specifically when a person comes to you with a problem or an issue they need help with.
Listening to them with sympathy or empathy, as needed, means that you are actively lending them an ear. You express your care and concern for them by paying attention to what they are saying, thus forming an emotional connection. So where did the English language get this brutal sounding phrase for such good intentions from? Of course, it was from the master of brutal phrases for gentle intentions, our man William Shakespeare. The phrase “to lend an ear” originates from his famous play, “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar”, written in 1599. In the play, a character Mark Antony gives a rousing speech after the murder of his best friend, Julius Caesar. He begin this powerful speech (you can see it here!) by saying “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, I come to bury Caesar, not praise him.” Through this exceptionally clever speech, Antony builds an empathic connection with the town’s people and turns them into an angry mob against the assassins of Caesar. This is done by building a consistent emotional chord, and it begins by asking them all to lend him an ear, to listen to his pain for some time.
This idiom is just a starting point for you to mark a journey of listening to someone empathetically. It helps you form a connection and build a communication strategy to get your desired outcome with that person. Of course, it is a bit of an effort initially, more so when you have to do it in a language that you are not comfortable with, gradually it becomes much easier. For English, it baffles us that listening and hearing don’t mean the same thing! Over the next few weeks, follow this blog for an in-depth plan on how to listen more strategically and let that help you ace your communication skills!