Stop talking, start listening

By Brooke Bentley | Reporter

While it’s easy to get caught up in our own political opinions, we have to remember the importance of taking a step back and listening to others.

As intolerable as an opposing political ideology may seem, the only way to truly learn where you stand and why you stand there is to hear all sides of the argument. Especially during divisive times like today, in the midst of a crucial presidential election, it’s so important to remember to remain tolerant and understanding.

Listening is key. Even if you’re not interested in switching sides or even in reaching a compromise with the other person, the least you can do is listen to them respectfully because it absolutely will help you in your own arguments. Ask anyone who has ever studied debate or argumentation, they will tell you that at the very least you have to listen to the other side in order to even attempt to prove them wrong, or perhaps persuade them.

So many of the dividing issues that we face in America today are the result of a lack of tolerance. I read through Facebook and Twitter discussions and I am so disheartened by the way people have absolutely no desire to listen to what other people have to say or why they choose to say it. While there will always be some people who refuse to be civil, you do not have to be one of those people. But when people with genuine concerns and arguments get no exposure to opposing arguments, they can become completely manipulated and misinformed by their own side.

Remembering to not be hateful in the face of opposition is especially relevant in today’s world of electronic communication, where many of our political interactions are through social media when someone “shares” their political opinion. When you’re hidden behind a computer screen, it’s easy to accidentally say things you really wouldn’t say to someone face-to-face. Remind yourself to pause, read and attempt to understand other points of view before blasting someone, or better yet, don’t blast anyone, just be mature and have an intellectual discussion.

To those that only watch one news channel because they can’t stand to listen to an opposing opinion to their own: change the channel, please. I’m sure most of you have learned the general political affiliations that every station or newspaper tends to portray in their reporting, but simply because you don’t agree with their coverage is no excuse not to expose yourself to other points of view. You will learn a lot more than you think.

My family is pretty conservative, so I grew up mainly watching Fox News, listening to Sean Hannity and reading the New York Post. As a result of this, anytime someone turned on CNN or I had to read a New York Times article, I cringed. Then I came to college and realized that everyone is different and you cannot escape differing opinions. The most important lessons I think I have learned since coming to college are to be tolerant, to pause and to listen.

Now I read the New York Times and turn on CNN every morning because I have learned to enjoy being fully educated and well-rounded in my political beliefs. Learning to have respectful, intellectual discussions with people whom you disagree with is a wonderful life skill to have and will serve you well no matter what you choose to do with your life because conflict is everywhere and it is inevitable.

By all means, speak your mind to the fullest because you have the right to, but always remember that you can do that without being hateful or ignorant and still get your entire point across. While you may not convince everyone to agree with you, you’ll certainly enlighten others as well as yourself.