One of the biggest problems in our world is a breakdown in communication. Everyone is dying to be heard but nobody is willing to listen.
I’ve noticed that when I am in a conversation and someone else is talking, I stop listening as soon as I figure out what I want to say next. I tap my foot, sometimes turn slightly and roll my eyes, maybe gasp a little in annoyance as I wait for them to finish. Then, like a bullet from a gun, I’m off. It is MY TURN TO TALK!
We have adopted this narrative in today’s society that makes us the victim. Nobody is listening to MY ideas. Nobody is taking ME seriously. Nobody is listening to ME!
Listening (truly listening) to what others have to say requires a huge dose of humility. We have to be genuinely interested in their contribution, as much as our own. In conversation, it seems like everyone is a pawn in my game, a set-up man for my at-bat. Everything centers around expressing and validating my ideas.
What my pattern of conversing overlooks is the fact that other people are just as valuable as me and have something important to say.
This seems lost on us. We converse to bounce our ideas off of people, not to learn from theirs. We converse to justify, validate, and approve our own self in the eyes of our peers, not to truly be in community with them.
Ours is a truly frightening approach to communication. And the effects are rampant in our world. Increased anger, acts of violence, a perspective of violation when disagreed with.We are not searching for the truth, valuing one another, and valuing our place in the context of community. We are shouting like madmen. Throwing tantrums like a toddler. And lost in the mix is some significant beauty in this world. Some accuracy, a touch of naming reality. And of course a sense of connectivity and unity.
Sometimes when my wife is telling a long story, I can literally feel the immature angst rise up in me. I have things I want to say! This is taking forever! It is terrible. And it costs me. It costs us. It robs us of the opportunity to share truth together. It disqualifies me (in the moment) from loving her the way I want to, from being the husband to her I want to be.
A Line of Honor
We define culture as a subset of humanity that agrees on what is honorable and what is shameful. Different cultures honor different things.
For example, we honor waiting in an organized line in America. If you walk into a restaurant or the DMV and cut in line, you are going to get some slack.
When it comes to communication, I am not suggesting we be mutes. In fact, our current perspective is born out of this fear that nobody is listening to the valuable things I have to say. And you do have valuable things to say. I do as well. So do they. What if we honored our turn in line, not trying to cut or ignore the line or passive aggressively try to get people to leave it? Have you ever been in a group conversation where people are constantly cutting each other off, interrupting each other without even noticing the ones who are now talking sliced the point another was making off at legs to have their turn? A culture shift is needed. One akin to the way we treat the line at Chipotle. Each has their turn.
Communication is about valuing all parties. We need to be fighting to hear as much as we fight to be heard. No more and no less.