Screaming v Listening

Some days I wonder how the human race has managed to survive so long when there seems to be such an immense amount of anger and hatred inside even the most mild-mannered of people. Yesterday I was the reluctant eavesdropper of a conversation about Edward Snowden. ‘Whistleblower’ to one and ‘traitor’ to the other, the conversation generated more heat than light. Indeed, at one point I wondered whether I’d need a tungsten boiler suit to protect myself, so fiery was the debate becoming. It was at that point that I realised neither was actually listening to the other. There was no dialogue, only the statement of opinion; and given that neither appeared to be any more ‘in the know’ than any other consumer of internet/broadcast news, I think ‘opinion’ is the correct word to use. It was an argument without real substance which appeared to leave both men cross and out of sorts.

It also left me wondering how often I act in the same way. Those things I care about, that engage my passions so to say, may be precisely the ones about which I need to do more listening to others. Screaming at someone, whether metaphorically or literally, may be an indicator of how deeply something is felt, but it isn’t an argument and does nothing to advance understanding or agreement. Perhaps we are screaming at each other too much these days. As my mother used often to remind me, God gave us one mouth but two ears. He must have meant something  by that.

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5 thoughts on “Screaming v Listening”

  1. This isn’t meant to be a flippant reply to your piece above. I started learning Latin after Easter and as the characters were doing a lot of speaking (present tense!), they all seemed to be shouting at each other (clamat) and I imagined Pompeii as a very noisy place.
    A spiritual director once asked me why I continued arguing when I could see that the other person and I were inhabiting totally different places ( and I was adding more heat than light to the argument I expect). My reply was, ” Because they’re wrong !” People come into the church where I help looking for people to listen to them ( we offer this as a service) and they seem to find it helpful.

  2. I know I’m guilty of this! Sometimes it gets heated to a point that I don’t even realise the other person and I are “arguing” about two different issues, and if we stopped to listen to each other we’d discover (a) we hadn’t even thought of the issue the other one was arguing about and (b) we both actually agree with each other.

    Jenny makes a good point about simply stating points if view others don’t necessarily want to hear. There’s more to it than that though, and the balance can be difficult to strike: Aside from the danger of assuming there’s a 100% overlap between OUR opinion and the RIGHT one, I’ve found that sometimes the most difficult wisdom is that which is hidden among other flawed points. Just because someone is wrong on some of what they’re saying, it’s worth paying careful attention in case they’re right about other bits. And it also gives them the dignity of us being more interested in them and why they think what they do than of having the pleasure of being proved right.

    However, the last point requires vulnerability, which is something I’m even worse at than listening…

  3. Very fittingly I am reading this whilst listening to my daughters voices getting louder and louder as they assert there opinions without taking the time to listen to the others… Time for an intervention and for them to have to do the whole conversation again nicely, whilst hopefully listening to each other.

  4. I suspect that I’ve also been guilty of this too many times to count, certainly in my younger, less mature days, but even later in life on some point of principle or other.

    I hoped that I’d learned to deal with such situations and when I feel strongly about something to check out my facts first and do some listening and even being prepared to reevaluate when necessary. I’m not saying that I’m wrong and that the other is right, just that seeing both sides to a discussion or debate helps your perspective and probably prevents unnecessary attacks of anger, raising of blood pressure and the danger of saying something that might actually be harmful to someone else.

    It’s interesting when I look back on situations in recent years when someone has said to me “I don’t know how you can be so calm” I don’t like replying that I might have been gritting my teeth or biting my tongue to stop an unfortunate response, while I sought a way to cool the situation without hurt or ongoing dissent. So, perhaps God has answered my prayers in allowing me not only to be more self aware, but also the gift of self control.

    It just seems that now, I don’t have the energy or will to argue pointlessly and would rather be a peace maker than be a troublemaker. God be praised for that change.

  5. How often I feel the need to state my opinion, even when it is not really wanted/needed. So convinced that I am right or need to score points that i say something worthless or even worse possibly harmful to others. Too often we like the sound of our own voice. and the arrogant views it helps us express.
    Listening to others is not easy, they can seem opinionated to us (the irony!) or boring or simply wrong. Often conversation becomes a means of getting one over on others, proving our woth/wisdom. Even in a friendly chat we seek to prove we are in control. Real wisdom would be shown by saying a lot less and considering others before we begin to share our opinions. With all the modern means of communication available I am sure shouting happens much more than listening.

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