Guns & God & GOP: Why Listen Beyond What I Know? (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #20)
Why listen to a different viewpoint?
Q: I’m a passionate guy. I have strong beliefs and I know what’s true about the world. And yet coworkers and neighbors blather on with their ill-founded stupidities. Why won’t they listen to reason?
A: I’m glad you ask because we all fall into this state from time to time—often without realizing it. What stands as a clear and obvious reason to me looks like wishy-washy BS to you. And your clearly developed opinion looks like ideology-driven, fact-picking to me.
One guy in the Bible talked about an opportune time for everything: birth and death, crying and laughing, speaking and shutting your pie hole. Maybe there is a time to shout your opinion and maybe there is a time to listen to what someone else has to say.
We do a lot of shouting in this country.
What if we experimented with listening?
If there were a time for listening, it would happen in a conversation where we truly wanted to hear what someone else wanted to say. Perhaps we’re talking with someone we respect a great deal. Maybe we’ve purposefully sought out a friend with a different opinion—just to try to hear it clearly.
What if we listened intently to the pieces of reason and fragments of story our friend uses use to tell her side of things? What if we intentionally entered a conversation with the purpose of listening rather than doing battle or proving our point? We all know that the purpose we bring to a conversation has a big bearing on the outcome. We’ll get a fight if we want one. We may get an interesting eye-opener if we listen properly.
Note how different that intention is from the half-listening we typically do while we form our rebuttal. We’re all guilty of preparing a torrent of words to combat the wrong-headed notions spewing from our worthy debate opponent.
But what if it was not a debate we wanted? What if, after listening we tried to summarize what our conversation partner said to see if we could get it right? And only then, after hearing and summarizing, we formed a response. And what if we didn’t reach for the phrases we heard on TV or trot out the canned responses our club’s magazine produced? What if we stayed in the moment—with this friend—and voiced our disagreement even as we continued to listen?
Here’s what can happen: You and I can remain passionately eloquent about what we believe. But we also can say with certainty what our friend believes-though we disagree.
That kind of talk can feed your passion, feed a relationship as well as make for an interesting and engaging few moments of human connection.
That’s why we listen to a different viewpoint.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston