One of my facebook friends sent me this Ted video. She knows how much I have been preaching active listening. If you have 20 minutes, please view it. If you do not have 20 minutes right now, then I suggest you bookmark it for later. You will not be disappointed.
Here is a quick synopsis of the video. A black man decided to go undercover on the alt-right. He created a profile of someone who would be sympathetic to the cause of the alt-right. In doing so, he found a lot of nasty stuff. But he also heard a lot of arguments that he thought were fair. Although he clearly did not agree with them on everything, he developed a certain level of compassion from his experience. In the end he encourages us to communicate with each other and learn about each other.
We are going to have to engage in active listening if we are going to get past this period of our country with minimal conflict. People may think it cannot get any worse. Oh believe me, it can. Violence can become much more commonplace, and we can see a lot more viciousness before this is over. Do we want to bring this social tension to an end or would we like to see this tension decrease? If the latter is of value to us, then active listening is the key.
As I thought about posting this video, it was not lost on me that I was using a video of a progressive listening to non-progressives. While I am being opportunistic about using this video I also realize that, sadly, a video of a conservative engaging in active listening would not have the same impact. Many conservatives tend to look at other conservatives who work at understanding progressives as capitulating to them. Too often they have seen conservative become progressives on certain issues and are characterized as having “evolved.” So showing conservatives an example of a conservative engaging in active listening may unintentionally provide the message that to actively listen is to unconditionally accept the perspective of progressives.
Finally, I fear it has become more difficult for us to understand each other today because of social media. We all know how the system works. Facebook and Twitter feed us contacts and stories that reinforce our preconceived ideas. It gets so easy to get stuck in our ideological silos and not hear contrasting opinions. We have to work to learn those opinions. Maybe we do not have to set up an undercover profile, but we live in a society where access to dissenting opinions does not come easily.