In June, the Harmony Library hosted a workshop presented by the League of Women Voters of Larimer County on civic engagement. Attendees, across the political spectrum, were eager to learn how they could talk, write, or otherwise advocate for issues so that others would listen.
You can read about the workshop on an earlier post here on our League of Women Voters of Larimer County blog but the workshop has given me more general food for thought. What are the ways that we can engage with others so that they will listen? In a political climate that has become so emotionally charged, so polarized, and so partisan, how can we talk to promote understanding and solutions instead of increasing division?
As a mediator/facilitator I usually focus on the opposite side of this skill set, teaching people to listen, truly listen, so that others will talk. In helping groups dig into difficult issues, I find those who engage in deep listening — without mentally preparing rebuttals or getting preoccupied with labeling the speaker- are the most successful in finding common interests and creative shared solutions.
In a 2013 TED Talk How To Speak So Others Want to Listen,” sound expert Jillian Treasure warns of the “seven deadly sins of speaking.” These include judging, negativity, and dogmatism. In place of these “sins,” Treasure encourages using honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love. While these positive tactics seem obvious, they are often absent in political discussions. Instead, from conversations with family and friends to daily examples on the news, we see the “sins” in abundance.
While our brains may naturally crave certainty and confirmation of the ideas we already hold, we do not have to be victims of brain chemistry and unhealthy habits. We do not have to mirror the behaviors we see in the media and from our elected officials. We have a choice.
As we work through divisive times, please reflect on how changing speaking habits might shape your next political conversation. We can all learn to reject the habits that take us further away from understanding and instead speak and listen with honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love.
Carrie Bennett | PR Team Webmaster