As we turn the page in history, it is again time to reflect. As political elections approach and pass, as geo-political conditions change, it is time to reflect on the importance of listening.
The first step of thinking about how to talk with people who differ from you politically, and how to depolarize conversations so that they can be more productive and less damaging to relationships, is to first listen. Listen deeply. Listen without bias. How does one do that?
Bias can be blinding. Bias is the inclination to prejudice or disproportionate weight for or against someone or something, some ideas. Biases hold us back. They keep us from being able to listen… to listen deeply. It is important to recognize confirmation bias because the inability to look outside your existing belief system will vastly limit your ability to grow and improve, to see alternatives, to see/hear possibilities.
So, if we listen with an open mind, we can talk with people more easily and find common ground with people whose political views and beliefs are very different from our own.
In addition to bias as barrier to listening, there are other divisive behaviors. Let’s call them “the seven deadly sins” of trying to be heard. Social media has contributed to weakening our listening skills. Social media, either intentionally or unintentionally, has contributed to the seven deadly sins of trying to be heard, and has inhibited our ability to listen deeply.
The Seven Deadly Sins of trying to be heard:
To be heard is to be understood…To be heard is to create understanding.
To counter the bias and to guard against the negative impact of negative social messaging, one can use “conscious listening” creates understanding.
Conscious listening is the act of being intentionally present during communication between yourself and another while being aware of your own and the other’s feelings and needs. Conscious listening is related to mindful listening, which is allowing another to express him/herself without interrupting, judging, refuting or discounting.
Through conscious listening, you build trust; become authentic, caring, and transparent; demonstrate integrity; and learn about yourself, others and the world.
If we are to build a more resilient society, we must improve social cohesion. We do that by building trust and respect. We do that by listening…. listening deeply. We do that by releasing our biases, by being aware of and not engaging in the seven deadly sins of trying to be heard.