Strong Listening that Goes Beyond Politeness

This Musing is drawn from some highlights from chapter 7 of my “Let’s Talk” book, titled “Planting Tiny Seeds of Redemptive Conversation.”

We should all aspire to practice politeness, which seems to be in short supply these days. But, in our increasingly tribalistic culture, being polite is not enough.

In a conversation with another person who strongly disagrees with me about a contentious issue, here is what happens too often. Out of my commitment to being polite, I agree up-front to not interrupt my conversation partner as she presents her position on the issue and her reasons for holding her position. But as I patiently wait for her to finish, my mind is racing as I think about what I am going to say when it is my turn to speak. I am practicing “weak listening” in that I have no intention to rethinking my position in light of what I hear her saying.

In stark contrast, “strong listening” involves my listening for ways in which what I hear her saying could lead to my critically re-examining my own view. Such re-examination could help me to build a better case for my own view. But it could also help me to see that there are inadequacies in my view that need correction.

My expectation for “strong listening” is captured in the fourth guideline (below) in the set of “Guidelines for Respectful Conversation” that I now expect all conversation partners to agree to prior to my including them in my various Respectful Conversation initiatives.

  • I will try to listen well, providing each person with a welcoming space to express her perspective on the issue at hand.
  • I will seek to empathetically understand the reasons another person has for her perspective.
  • I will express my perspective and my reasons for holding that perspective with clarity and conviction, but with a non-coercive style that invites conversation with a person who disagrees with me.
  • In my conversation with a person who disagrees with me, I will explore whether we can find some common ground by critically examining my own view in light of her contrary view and the reasons she has for her view.
  • Guided by the underlying values of humility, courage, patience, and love, when we cannot find common ground, I will always engage the person who disagrees with me in a way that demonstrates respect and concern for her well-being and does not foreclose the possibility of future conversations.

As my next musing will reveal, it is rare to find persons who give evidence of embracing my fourth guideline by combining both passionate commitment to their own beliefs and openness to a possible need to correct their present beliefs in light of “strong listening” to the contrary beliefs of others; which reflects a failure to embrace the Christian value of humility.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *