Heard an interesting radio snip over the weekend that I was thinking about, regarding this stalemate and divisiveness that seems to be gripping political and ideological discussion (that I will essentially lift directly from for a bit starting now, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to head here
and start up Dialogue and Exchange and perhaps skip to minute 33 as that's where I'm about to rip from and the part that resonated so well with me) about letting go of this idea that you're a part of a conversation to change someone's mind or to educate them, because that's always frustrating, and that's probably where all the anger comes from, because that's not going to happen. So let go of that intention, and instead enter into the conversation, saying "Okay, I'm gonna take something away from this conversation." THAT's something you have control over.
A few things you should do when listening to someone:
#1 - Don't multitask. And I don't mean just put down your cellphone or your tablet or your car keys or whatever's in your hand, BE PRESENT. Be in THAT moment.
#2 - Use open-ended questions. Take a cue from journalists and start out your questions with "Who, What, Where, When, Why" or "How".
#3 - Go with the flow. Thoughts will come into your mind, and you need to let them go out of your mind. We're sitting having a conversation with someone and then we remember that time when we met Hugh Jackman at a coffee shop and we stop listening. Ideas are going to come to you, you need to let them come and let them go.
#4 - Don't equate your experience with theirs. If they're talking about the trouble they're having at work, don't tell them about how much you hate your job. It's not the same. It is NEVER the same. All experiences are individual, and more importantly, it is not about you.
#5 - LISTEN. I cannot tell you how many important people have said that this is perhaps THE MOST, #1 MOST IMPORTANT SKILL YOU CAN DEVELOP. And look, I know it takes effort, and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can't do that, you're not in a conversation, you're just two people shouting out barely-related sentences in the same place.
One of the bits after that was about talking with someone who's so ideologically opposed to you that everything they say and believe just offends you to your core, and how when starting a conversation where they're like "Well I'm not even going to talk to you about this, I already know where you stand" can be an entrypoint to listening, since you can respond "Well, that's a load off, I don't have to get into that. So how do you feel about "X"?
And not necessarily NOT responding with your feelings and views and just listening, but by opening the dialogue and hearing how they feel, by paying that respect, you may end up talking with someone who likes you and respects you enough to perhaps give you an opening to share how YOU feel about something, instead of being locked down and shut out, or retreating yourself and becoming defensive. What I see, what I am guilty of to an alarming rate I hadn't really taken seriously before now is the way I've been "talking" in these forums.
1. I say something
2. Someone says something I don't agree with
3. I counter with what I believe to be obvious and firmly correct
4. Someone else says something they believe to be obvious and firmly correct
5. I call someone else an idiot because it's clear as day to anyone reading what they're saying
Aaaand I think we know (or honestly really DON'T know) what happens there. Whoever gets the last word in is the "winner" and the person who finds talking to a brick wall to be boring/fruitless finds something else to do for a bit/forever. And this I think is a hyuuuuuge problem, because we simply cannot move forward when we have no understanding and empathy and understand that the person on the other side of that monitor is a real human being with feelings and emotions and convictions, just like we are. And throwing up the shields and firing your lasers and torpedoes and treating everything as a battle to be won instead of a shared, human experience we will only get through together is precisely why we aren't accomplishing anything meaningful politically or socially. The only thing that really benefits from this strife is, in fact, corporate America and the media.
So before you crack your knuckles and post that super slick burn retort that just came to you after reading the first two lines in a post, take a step back, breathe, and find something to learn, some way to expand yourself as a human being, because listening and learning, perhaps especially from people we do not share ideas with normally, is the best way to go beyond what you are, instead of moving nowhere.