Talk less, listen more

By Taylor Wolf | Social Media Editor

I get the feeling that people often like listening to the sound of their voice more than their thoughts. We’re uncomfortable with stillness. We’re uncomfortable with silence. I don’t believe that every conversation should be used to argue or talk at someone about your views. Think about the purpose of conversations: Is this conversation turning into being just for and about me? Or do I actually respect this person and what he or she has to say?

Social media platforms are the greatest scene of this tragedy as the nature of posting and commenting is, at times, almost mindless. The ability to respond or post immediately when you have a thought removes a critical element of thoughtful conversation – thinking it through and weighing its effect on others. Do I actually care about contributing to a conversation, or do I just want people to hear me roar? If you truly are passionate about an issue and want to see change, you should care about listening to what others have to say about it, too. Dehumanizing and villainizing every person who disagrees with you will never help you push your position forward. Communication involves two or more sides. Successful communication requires respect, empathy and the ability to ask more questions while actually listening to the answers.

I’m proud to live in a day and age where people are incredibly passionate about what they believe and have the confidence and power to stand up for what they believe in. But are you interested in having a holistic worldview? Are you interested in trying to understand people coming from different cultures, upbringings, faiths and life experience than you? Are you comfortable asking questions and listening without retaliation? If not, how you choose to live life is up to you, but realize that it could mean you don’t truly believe in conflict resolution and healthy communication. If you demand respect, are you giving it out too?

American writer and cartoonist James Thurber said, “All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.”

I believe that if you don’t try to understand what you fear and why you fear it, you’re allowing it to have power over you. Opposition and disagreement isn’t something to be feared. Think about why you fear it. Why does it trigger you? We don’t live in an idealistic society. People will always be in disagreement. We need to learn how to deal with that. Hey, I’m preaching to myself here, too. It’s hard to not get defensive and feel threatened when your values and deepest-held beliefs are questioned. But you don’t need to have all the answers or force answers out of others.

James Thurber also said, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

I believe this is so important, yet so lost today.

Know what you believe in and be able to talk about it. Be a respectful conversationalist even when the other person isn’t. Know when to walk away. Please don’t cut people out of your life for what they believe in. Surrounding ourselves with different people with different life perspectives and experiences makes us better humans. Otherwise, we’d turn into an unproductive, factioned society full of idealistic, self-serving and entitled individuals.

Call me an optimist, but I believe we have the power to change this rage culture. It starts with communication and respect, and sometimes just stopping to listen – to listen to yourself think or to listen to someone else talk for once. Even better, go outside for a minute or even an hour and listen to silence. Take a breath. Let that person’s comment go. Get to know a person different from you. It doesn’t imply weakness – it implies the desire to grow as a human. It implies awareness.

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” -James Thurber