*Editor’s note: “Stop covering politics,” some of our dear readers cry every time we post something relephant. Look: politics are life. Equal rights, empathy, fair economy, healthcare. We can’t ignore what’s happening, and you shouldn’t either. Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.
I would like to listen to you.
Please tell me how you feel. And why.
Explain to me, in your own way, why this recent executive order is a benefit.
If you could take the time to do this, I promise to hear you.
I will say from the outset: on this point, we disagree. The ban disturbs me. I cannot believe we are doing this to people. It scares me to think about what might unfold from here.
I’m asking you to share your perspective with me, though. Not to debate. Not even really to converse. I do not want to talk. If you tell me why you support the immigrant ban, I will speak only to ask questions. I will not respond otherwise, especially not to argue with you, or try to persuade you to see my point of view.
I want to listen. I want to learn.
This, I believe, is so often the missing piece in situations like these. Situations where divisiveness seems permanent, and unification impossible. We commiserate with people who share our perspective. We partner with them to plan, or to act. We want to “win.”
When we hear the points of people who oppose our perspective, we often are not truly listening. We pay attention to the argument only to point out its flaws. To interject our counterargument at just the right place. To use that brilliant analogy so we can better illustrate our own point.
Certainly, each of these reactions serves a purpose. They can, and should, continue.
But we should also seek to understand more. Sometimes, it seems people fear dialogue—as if listening to someone else’s viewpoint might threaten the validity of our own.
And, actually, it might. If this turns out to be the case, then we should continue the conversation. Ask questions. Learn about the issue from a different lens. Educate ourselves. This makes us stronger—individually and collectively.
Dialogue is about more than changing minds, though. It seems we forget that. Dialogue is also about expanding minds. It should be used for comprehension—compassion, even.
So today, when it feels like we need more compassion by the moment, I—respectfully, authentically, hopefully—ask you to dialogue with me.
You will be heard.
Author: Kerry Graham
Image: Lori Shaull/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren