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MLCC Thoughts - Listening

Often, I hear the statement from someone in the media, “I want to start a conversation.  Or, let’s have a conversation.” Those talking, claim people are not listening and are not interested in a conversation.  In some cases that is absolutely true; in some cases, but not all.  I am interested in a conversation, but there needs to be an agreement between the two parties involved in the conversation about what constitutes listening.

When I listen to someone express an idea or thought, I mean really listen, I acknowledge the value of the person talking. I once attended a city council meeting in which a woman gave a passioned and well-reasoned suggestion to solve a problem the city was facing.  The first question presented to her after she spoke was, “What was your college degree in.”  She replied that she did not have a degree in the area of which the discussion was about.  The next statement from the city council member went something like this, “You may sit down because you have nothing to add to this conversation.”  He devalued the woman, treating her as if she was an idiot.  She was not!

Listening to another acknowledges that person’s right to speak their mind.  Everyone has thoughts and ideas and should be allowed to express those ideas without censorship.  America allows for freedom of speech and people should not fear speaking what is on their minds.  Yet, the other in the conversation must understand that listening to their ideas does not constitute agreeing with those ideas. 

It seems when I hear the statement, “Let’s have a conversation,” what I really hear is, “I am going to express my ideas and if you are truly listening to me, you will agree.”  No, listening does not equal agreement.  So, if I am listening and do not agree with the idea, do not tell me that I am not listening.  I am, and I disagree with the idea, but I am listening.  The demand of agreement cannot be forced upon another, claiming listening equals agreement.  It does not. 

There are some great ideas out in the public sphere, but often very little listening is going on.  In listening, I will try to understand where your idea is coming from, validate you as a person and your idea as an expression of your mind, but I do not have to agree with you.  This disagreement must be allowed for the free flow of ideas in society.  If a person is passionate about their idea, then persuade me to embrace the idea.  Do not demand that I agree or claim I am not listening.

It is amazing what a person can learn when they listen.  Listen more, talk less.  Embrace new ideas, as long as they correspond to reality.  Validate the other’s ideas, even when there is disagreement.  No one has all knowledge.  Listen. We may actually learn something.

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