Thursday, July 14, 2016

Radical Listening

My heart is heavy. Talking feels hopeless. Looking around at the dialogue flying back and forth, I want to hunker down and wrap my arms over my head. I want to tuck my family into the foxhole with me and create a safe haven, insulated from the noise and flying debris. That’s what my brain is telling me. It’s time to hide. Run. Don’t say anything, just flee.

But in my heart, I think I know what actually needs to happen. I think part of that instinct is correct. I don’t think there’s all that much to say (ironic that I’m writing a blog, then, right? Well, aren’t you a smarty-pants and I probably like you for it).

I think it’s time for some radical listening. I know everyone is screaming for you and I to take a stand, but I think we’re failing on a much simpler level.

See, the people we think we’re standing up to? They aren’t hearing us. Picture the entity you are most frustrated with. Go ahead. Is it a politician? A movement? An organization?

Let me ask you – when is the last time they responded to your Facebook rants? When is the last time that they nodded and listened, looking thoughtful while you shared your frustrations? Maybe you’re 100% correct. Maybe you have all of your facts straight. Maybe you are angsty and itching to do something.

I hear you.

May I make a timid observation?

Are we actually shouting at the wrong people?

Who is hearing us every time we speak?

It’s the people in our own circle, friends. Sometimes we feel free to post whatever makes us grunt in agreement because we operate as if only the people who agree with us can hear our words. It’s much like the way we interact with our siblings in the comfort of our parents’ home. We make jokes we absolutely would not when in other company. We may even openly laugh at someone, because everyone in the room knows we don’t “mean” it – we’re just pointing out humor that is obvious to a group of people with such similar backgrounds. Those inside jokes are funny, and mostly harmless because they are based on the fact that everyone in the room a) understands no malice is intended and b) will never repeat those conversations outside of the safety of those home-walls.

Home is the place where you get to be, frankly, kind of insensitive. Or even a lot insensitive at times? I won’t ask and you don’t have to tell.

But that’s not the whole of us. We actually do care what other people think and how they perceive us, and we care if we hurt them.
I am suggesting that maybe we allow ourselves to slip into a place of too much comfort when we blast our views on social media. We may believe we have all of the facts, but we absolutely do not have all of the perspectives.

I guess I’m wondering what would happen if we called a moratorium on taking to social media when we are upset. What if, when upsetting things happened, we refused to be used? We refused to allow anyone to harness our fear as energy for his or her own political or social agenda.

What if we got willing to be vulnerable with others and ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable? Instead of mega-phoning our opinions because we can, we intentionally sought out another perspective to check ourselves.

I remember a time when my ego was so large that I felt victory when I managed to shut someone up. These days when a conversation moves from deep and serious to placating and polite, I feel my heart sink. When someone stops speaking honestly to me, it likely indicates that I don’t seem safe and open to them anymore.  That feels like failure to me.

I don’t want to summarize the problems of society with silly memes that oversimplify complex issues. The whole of society is not within my purview. So I’m not going to rail as if the whole world can hear.

I’m going to spend my time on the people who actually hear me talk, see what I share, and take part in my life. And I’m going to start by listening. It’s your turn to talk, friend.

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