Housewife Confessions

Are You Listening to Understand or Argue?

Me standing on the balcony of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The United States Capitol is in the background. This photo was taken in 2010 during my seminar at The Washington Center.

I want you to ask yourself some questions and sincerely consider the answers. Ask yourself:

  1. Do I listen as passionately as I argue?
  2. When someone shares their opinion do I listen to understand them or am I more concerned with arguing my point?
  3. At what point do I stop listening to someone and start formulating a reply/argument in my mind?
  4. Which is more important: arguing my point or understanding someone else’s?
  5. Am I capable of changing my opinion when presented with new information?

Listen to Understand

I want this post to be short and simple, so I’ll keep it that way. When speaking with others, please don’t assume. Don’t set out to argue a point. Don’t immediately point fingers. Don’t plan your response while someone else is still talking. Actually listen to them.

Listen to understand. This is so important. Listen to people. Let their opinions, priorities, and life experiences inside your mind. Seek to understand them. Consider them. Listen to understand them and their priorities. Not to react and argue. Actually consider the lives of others. We are all gloriously different. Understanding our differences can make us stronger.

We all have different opinions and different priorities because we live different lives. There are things we aren’t exposed to. There are things we don’t understand. So we need to listen to each other. We need to learn from each other so we can change for the better.

We don’t always need to agree with each other. We won’t. That’s okay. But we need to respect each other enough to actively listen. Before attempting to tear down someone’s argument, consider where they came from and what makes them see the world the way they do.

As a disclaimer, I’ll say and agree that this isn’t always easy. Especially when someone’s opinions stem from lack of awareness, ignorance, and/or hatred. I know. And sometimes we have to take a stand. Sometimes we have to quit listening for our own mental and physical health. But that isn’t what this post is about…

This post is about listening to learn. This post is about the good people out there that still aren’t listening to each other. But bonus points — if people with a lack of awareness, ignorance, and/or hatred can listen to others I sincerely believe things can change. Hopefully this post will impact at least one of those people. But please remember, not everyone is filled with hatred. Some people just don’t know how important active listing is. Some people have been isolated for so long, they sincerely don’t stop to consider others.

Respectfully listening to each other is the first step in changing minds.

We can learn from our differences.

We can become better.

Don’t assume. Don’t seek to argue. Your assumptions might be debilitating and your argument unnecessary.

My mind has been changed by listening to others. I’ve had strong beliefs that were clouded by my lack of knowledge. I didn’t understand the lives other people where living. But I actually listened. I learned new information. My mind changed.

Just try it.

And fact check too. Fact checking is awesome.

Sincerely, Elizabeth
Uncustomary Housewife

Humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.” – Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek

Me standing on the balcony of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The United States Capitol is in the background. This photo was taken in 2010 during my seminar at The Washington Center.
Image Description: Me standing on the balcony of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The United States Capitol is in the background. This photo was taken in 2010 during a seminar at The Washington Center.

4 comments on “Are You Listening to Understand or Argue?

  1. Beautifully written, Elizabeth! Thank you for this clear and insightful message. As humans, we sometimes fall into patterns that hold us back, and one of those patterns is thinking we understand when we really don’t. Thank you for reminding us to take step back and really listen to what is being said, to consider carefully the reasons behind what was said, and to “walk a mile” in the shoes of the person speaking. If we all could do that more often, the world would be a much better place!

  2. A great post. Listening to all sides is a message that is powerful and one that needs to be applied to today’s people. Sometimes we are so headstrong that we forget we all come from different background, each important. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Excellent post and points. Much needed words especially in today’s world. We’ve seem to have forgotten how important true communication is and that active listening is as important if not more so than speaking. Bravo!

  4. I completely agree. Active listening – listening fully to what is being said – regardless of whether you agree with it or not – it one of the most important skills for us to develop. It is difficult to focus or not start formulating your response, but with practice it is possible. It’s also a good mindfulness technique as really listening requires being present in the moment. Thank you for sharing x

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