At a time when our world is facing tremendous changes and challenges we are being given the opportunity to lean on others; that is to say, to find out how others are managing this journey. From the medical recommendations, to local and national governmental health guidelines, decisions are being made to help us protect and care for our citizens. As a country that cherishes being independent, self-sufficient and goal-oriented, it can be a challenge to reach beyond our families and communities to be open and willing to listen to views different than our “norm.” We’re all so very busy, even if we wanted to, where is there time?
As I see it, this is an opportunity to extend beyond our normal prodigal and consider how others are handling these unusual circumstances. Whether it is the pandemic, racial unrest, or our current political decisions to be made, now is a perfect time to listen to the views and perception of others.
To do this we must be strong within ourselves with what we know to be true for us, while still remaining open to others. This requires Respect, which seems to be a quality that is not always understood. There was a time when respect meant to honor our elders, neighbors and our family beliefs; however, it now seems to mean to respect “my opinion over yours,” and unfortunately that applies to within the family unit as well.
What a divided world we have become. And, from the collective views aired on every form of social media, the flames are fueled to have one person or party’s view “right,” leaving the other person’s perspective “wrong.”
Whether it is the pandemic, racial unrest or our political decision-making, it seems we are similar in that we have a common goal to restore a sense of normalcy. None of us want to lose people we love, or rely on the government to “save us, support us, heal us.” In order for this independent, self-sufficient and goal-oriented country to begin to rebuild a new norm, we need each other! In order for that to happen we must heal some very old wounds in order to truly be a strong United States.
Remember the statement, “United we stand, divided we fall?” Perhaps it is time to look at how similar we are with what we want to see more of in our country. To do this we must use our listening skills! Every individual has experiences in life and through them they have gained a sense of how to manage difficult life situations. Perhaps if we use our “heart’s ears” we will move through this time of great transition and become a stronger, more compassionate country and world. No doubt listening to seek understanding will begin that healing process and help us actually see how similar we are. We all want to be free, be loved, and be seen. That can only happen when someone is there to listen, love and see you!
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood," is the 5th habit in Stephen Covey's book, "The 7 habits of highly effective people." If you truly want to see more peacefulness, harmony and cooperation in the world, it begins with gathering the necessary tools to do your part by becoming a skilled communicator. It is really quite simple to do, if you are willing to genuinely develop the skills to be a compassionate person. And keep in mind, that compassion is for yourself as much as it is for others since all too often we are our worst critics; the voice in our head can often be very unkind and judgmental!
This 5th Habit requires, Empathic Listening. There are two components of this skill, the first is to notice what the speaker is telling you about the topic in order to understand their thoughts and beliefs about the topic for which they are speaking. The second is to listen for their feelings about the topic. Check out this amazingly simple and useful book to gain more insights for developing good communications.
Which leads to the second aspect of the above quote, "then to be understood." Once we have listened and reflected what we heard from the speaker, we can glean more information, knowledge and/or perspective about the topic. With this new information we can then sit in the quiet spaces of our day and consider how what we heard "feels" for us personally. That is to say, consider if any part of the conversation rings true within our thoughts and beliefs. There is so much we can learn about life if we are willing to listen to another's perspective, and in the end, we will better understand ourselves. To truly understand what makes us "tick," requires we set aside time to reflect back on what we have experienced, what we were taught as children about life, relationships, and where we fit into the big scheme of life. Just be certain to be gentle and kind while doing this review in order to develop trust within yourself.
It takes a lifetime to really "Know thyself," and all too many people are not willing to set aside the time to begin self reflection. In reality, if one could set aside even five minutes in the morning and five in the evening to simply quietly sit and review their words and actions for that day would be sufficient time to begin the journey inward. Whether you're a swimmer, hiker, biker, baker or candlestick maker, gather your gear and begin that journey to the center of your being, I promise it will be worth the ten minutes each day. My hope is you discover more similarities rather than differences with those with whom you encounter.
Another important aspect of seeking understanding is to notice the manner in which we engage in conversations. It was brought to my attention when someone posted a comment about something they felt passionate about on a social media site. With all the upheaval in our country, there seems to be a deluge of passionate topics from which to share one's feelings. Since free speech is one of the gifts we have in this country, opinions and personal insights on "hot topics" abound in all forms of media.
Now would a good time to look at what form of communication would be most effective if one is seeking to understand a person or group. When someone post a statement or speaks about a topic there are really two ways to communicate. We can either REACT to the words or RESPOND to them. If we react we will write back immediately from our first reaction. If we respond we generally hit the pause button and consider the words, then write back with how we feel about the topic. Both choices come from our emotions.
Chances are the topic may be a "hot topic" that most of us have very clear and personal opinion. The one making the post is obviously passionate about the topic or they wouldn't be writing it. Passion is good. It comes from a place of concern or curiosity. Whether we don't like something or love it, we can use the fire from which it comes to help us notice what is important that it may be time to gain more insight, or take an action to try and change.
If we are met with reactive comments it only fuels the fire and puts us on the defense. When that happens the topic is put aside and instead we now engage by reacting with more emotion and making our personal exchange the focus, rather than the topic. Whereas when people respond to our words, it may offer us a different perspective, support or something to consider we hadn't thought about before; and not on the personal differences.
If our goal is to seek understanding, which will get us there? REACTING or RESPONDING
Vicky Kelm Williams
I find people absolutely fascinating!