Sunday, July 19, 2020
Listen to Understand
A lot going on in our country/world these days. And a lot of it is sometimes hard to understand. When we don't understand, we increase our stress, making our lives harder. Let's try to find some understanding.
I'm learning to listen differently. Listen through a different perspective than our own. For me, I have to consider a perspective of someone younger, someone with a different income level, someone with a different childhood experience, someone with a different cultural heritage, someone with a different family experience. Those are just some of the differences that can shape what a person thinks, feels, and believes.
And each is valid for that person. "Different" is neither good or evil. It just is. Our values are formed by our experiences throughout life. Yes, it is possible to change one's values if they aren't working for us. But not everyone knows that.
So when I listen to someone who is different, I need to consider their perspective from where they are in their life. What shaped their values? What would it be like to be, say, twenty years younger? What life events did they not experience that you did? The assassination of JFK was significant for me.Times were very different after that in our country. Assassinations of prominent people was not part of my youth before then. After that followed Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, etc. A different world for our country.
What would it be like to have been born into a lower or higher income family? What if our parents hadn't finished the 8th grade or had been college graduates? What if food was hard to come by, if we never knew when we'd have a full meal, if we didn't have lunch money for school? Or what if everything came to us easily, we always had whatever we wanted, never went without anything, never went without any necessity or want? Our attitude about life would be very different if everything was given to us without our struggle, or if we never had enough no matter how hard we tried.
What would it be like to be a child in a dirty backstreet alley with no toys but junk we picked up, with no grass or trees, no one at home most of the time, with violence and poverty the norm. How would that shape someone differently from someone growing up in clean, well kept neighborhoods where at least one parent was home during the day and both at home at night. Where bikes, wagons, basketballs, and dolls were the norm;Where you didn't experience violence or going without what you needed, and those things only happened on t.v.
How might you be different if your family and neighborhood were from a different culture? Are you aware of what those differences are? Cultural histories have a great bearing on a person's values and point of view. What if your grandparents had been interred in camps because of theire nationality? What if your parents didn't have access to the jobs or education thay wanted because of their nationality? What if you were ridiculed and bullied in school because of your heritage? How would you see the world differently?
What if you grew up in a very different kind of family? Maybe you didn't experience a two-parent family, that that wasn't the norm when you were growing up. Maybe your siblings each had different fathers that came and went in your lives. What if you grew up with a parent that was drug addicted? What if you were removed from your home by community services and then bounced around in foster care. Or what if you were raised by your grandmother of aunt because your parents were absent for any variety of reasons? What if your mother was abused by your father or other men in your life? What would your beliefs about family, about women, about marriage, about all of that be later in your life? How would you see the world differently?
When you listen to learn these things about others, it is easier tu understand them, the things they do and say. You can begin to see things from other perspectives and can open your mind to the differences in people's experiences.
But in order to do that, you have to connect with people who are different, people you don't understand, and have meaningful conversations. You need to listen in a different way than when you listen with the intent to disagree and convince them their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are wrong. Acknowledge the differences and look for common ground. You will find you are more alike than different and that there are many things you have in common.
Listen, and come together to make a better world.