Once upon a time, two groups of people disagreed. Instead of working through their disagreement, some became so entrenched and emotionally attached to their opinions and views, they began building a wall. It was no ordinary wall because once the other group saw the wall going up, they too decided to add to the wall on their side. Those on the left believed they were always right, and only their ideas would ever work; those on the right thought they were always correct, and only their concepts would ever work.
After a while, the wall was so tall and long that neither side could see or hear the other group clearly. Words and taunts could be heard indistinctly over the wall if yelled at the top of their voices, but neither side paid any attention to the other sides’ noises.
And a funny thing began to happen.
The people on the left began talking among themselves and their views bounced off the wall and reinforced their beliefs and perspective. The same occurred on the right side of the wall. And the further each side stood from the wall, the more they conversed among themselves.
Soon everyone had taken a viewpoint of left and right. Nothing else got done. No growth occurred because, after all, they just kept reinforcing their side. Instead of two heads being better than one, each side became one head, one thought, one idea, one perception, one bias.
Time passed. Decay began. Soon each side began to fester and grumble and lash out at the wall. They knew the other side was just over the wall and those people were inferior, bigoted, wrong, and out to get them.
Then one day, those on the left and those on the right found a window had been installed. They could see that those on the other side looked like them, dressed like them, and seemed to have lifestyles and families like them. But they still shook their fists at the other side because that is all they had been raised to do.
They could see those on the other side, but they never indeed SAW them as people…only as embittered opponents in a rivalry that spanned the ages.
They continued to shout at the other side, and of course, the other side shouted back.
And this became the norm. Stereotyping each other, assuming characteristics and personalities by looking through a filtered view.
Then it happened.
The window opened. The first shouted comment, whether from the left or the right, was heard clearly by the other side. And silence ensued. The words that had been shouted became a subject of conversation. Then another comment was shouted but this time by the other side. A silence occurred as each side considered the words.
An amazing thing happened. Without the filter of the window or the walls that blocked the real view of the other side, people began to talk. At first, it was “Yes, but” responses. Then one small voice said, “Yes, and…” which was responded with another “Yes, and…” Soon both sides were building solutions, growing in their ability to respectfully understand the other side.
They began to actually SEE the other side as people who cared just as deeply as they did. A consensus began to be built and soon, the walls began to be taken down.
And what was finally accomplished was understanding that, even though views may differ, they needed to work together to come up with the best possible solution for all of the people.
Both sides, now united, decided to leave the part of the wall, which held the window, standing. It became a memorial and reminder to listen and respond respectfully, to leave emotions on the shelf, to understand they were working for the common good, and to always work for consensus solutions.
Moral of the story: Becoming entrenched without listening is equivalent to considering others as “things.” It’s when we see each side as fellow beings that we truly hear and work toward solutions. To seek allies* to bolster “our” opinion may make us feel good, but it only prolongs the chance to grow, find answers, talk about our differences and respect one another. So sit back, listen, truly hear what is being said and why it is being said, then work toward a consensus.
*Allies can be people, politics, or technology that applies filter bubbles to our view of the world, causing us to become isolated from the thoughts, experiences, and perceptions of others. The application of internet search engine and streaming media filter bubbles without our consent reinforces our view of life and others, “protecting” us from the opinions and ideas of others. For more information, check out Eli Parisers’ TED talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.
For a somewhat humorous view of talking without listening, view the short video “Timeout” at https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/121-timeout.
And as always, remember internet links change with time.
Sometimes it is good to sit back, see others as fellow beings, and listen deeply to what is said.