I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day and was flabbergasted by what I was seeing. So much NOISE! Propaganda, insults, hate — and oftentimes from the people you’d least expect it from — religious leaders, authority figures, people we respect — it’s unreal.
I get it, it’s easy to get caught up in all the noise. In fact, I’m writing this to myself as much as anyone else.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. People are making so much noise, no one can actually hear what they’re saying. Sure, people jump on the bandwagon, add to the noise, feel like they’re a part of something big, but no one is actually hearing what each side is saying, where they’re coming from. And it’s sad, really sad.
I’m not saying we all have to agree. Of course we don’t. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences. We bring different opinions and thoughts to the table. But ultimately, for the most part, I think we all come from a place of good intent and a foundation of truth based on our own experiences and understanding. (Of course, there are people who are driven by bad intent, I get that, too, but not everyone, and not even the majority.)
And we’d be able to recognize this if we’d all just stop and listen to each other. And I’m not talking about simply hearing words, I’m talking about deep listening, listening to the place where truths originate within our fellow human beings.
It’s called empathy. When we listen for feelings and needs, something amazing happens. We stop seeing people as monsters, as the enemy. Of course we’ll see people with differing opinions, but most often, we’ll also see the good intent behind those opinions.
When we use our words as weapons, our message gets lost. People get defensive and angry, and nothing gets accomplished. In fact, we usually end up with the opposite of the intended effect of our words. Chaos.
Words have power.
We can use them to inspire better communication and change, or we can use them to make a bunch of obnoxious noise.
Trying to drill ideas and opinions into the heads of others by being the loudest is not how change is made. Change is made when we listen. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone’s opinion comes from a truth deep within. And that truth is valid, whether we agree with it or not.
Our defensiveness is simply our egos turning us into a bunch of fools. Rather than taking things personally and jumping on a counterattack, maybe we should try asking ourselves where the other person is coming from. Put ourselves in their shoes for a minute, empathize with their position. We may not come to an agreement, but we can certainly come to an understanding. And that’s where true communication happens. That’s when BIG change is possible. It comes from working together, from different places, but for the betterment of all.
As a writer, I’m passionate about words and I understand the power they hold. It breaks my heart when these words are used to hurt others, and for what, really…? Because someone has a difference of opinion on how something should be done or viewed?
A difference of opinion does not make someone a bad person!
I am amazed at the blatant lack of respect for our fellow human beings and for the positions that some of these people hold. There is so much hate being slung about I can’t see how any progress is going to be made.
I believe in standing by our values. I believe in sharing our thoughts and opinions. But I also believe just as equally that we need to listen to each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned something when I simply shut up. I may not have changed my views or my stance, but I gained insight into the other person and was able to empathize with their position.
All I’m saying is, be respectful, listen to one another, and try to be empathetic of where each of us is coming from. The world will be a better place for it.
Jennifer L. Harris (JL Harris) is the co-author of The Providence Series, Sincerely, Grace: And Other Short Stories, and The Catalyst Series. She’s also a writing coach and editor, and you can find her at www.jenniferlharris.com.
When Jennifer is not writing or working with clients, you can find her hiking, reading, or playing an Evanescence song on the piano.