The importance of listening

Talking is only half of a conversation; the other half is listening. When thinking about issues of social justice, it’s important to take time to STOP & LISTEN. That’s the theme for this semester’s publication of The Matrix.

I’m on the debate team, which has given me way too much time to argue with other people. When I’m outside of debate rounds, though, I don’t usually like to get into too much direct rebuttal. The reason is that any good debater knows that it’s far more important to really know what someone is saying. Otherwise, people just end up talking past each other.

Why is that a social justice issue? There are crucial issues in society where people are on completely opposite sides. Vegans could hold the position that meat is murder, which makes it really hard to compromise on whether having a pepperoni pizza is alright or not.

Listening takes respect. When talking about someone you disagree with, it’s too simple to just repeat what others say. It’s too easy to say, “I disagree with that politician because my friends all say that the politician hates America.”

It becomes an echo chamber.

Listening is something radically different, though. It takes a serious moment to stop, to let go of all of the preconceptions and assumptions, to truly listen to what someone has to say.

It isn’t easy. In fact, it can be incredibly frustrating to listen to someone. The urge to interject, to disprove, to argue, is strong. Even if we can stay silent, that doesn’t mean that we are really listening. We can tune out, we can stay disinterested, or worse, we can avoid even showing up.

Listening to someone means giving them your full time and attention. It extends beyond the time and place. It means keeping it in mind. That’s something I think we all deserve.


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