Listen to understand, then speak to be understood

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I’m not a typical American, at least that is how I think of myself. Politically, I generally lean left and support socialist views, however have an open enough mind to recognize that no one “group” is completely correct in their policies or agendas. My approach is to see the problem for what it is without the fodder that is thrust upon me from mainstream media, pundits, or other sources that would be served well by my sheepily following. I follow quite a few blogs and read news from dozens of sites so that I can absorb and hopefully understand what is being reported or said. Conclusions and viewpoints are formed once I believe I have enough information to do so and generally don’t make judgements without a lot of facts to support that judgement. This system doesn’t always work to my benefit, as I’ll demonstrate, but my reaction is that of someone who truly has an open mind: acceptance that my original view was flawed in some way.

An interesting post on In Saner Thought titled Burn Baby Burn yesterday got a lot of comments with good discussions back and forth. The post was about the fires in Tennessee that devastated Gatlinburg and surrounding communities. You can read the comments for yourself if you’re interested, for this post though, the details aren’t necessary. The rumor of radical Muslims starting the fire came up in one of my comments and was immediately countered, which started a back and forth between myself and John of The Ripening Wanderer. He is a self-described conservative and his blog clearly indicates that he is correct in the description 🙂 I however, was interested and didn’t want to let it (my point) go without defending, and he posted an article that supported his comments quite well.  So well in fact, it changed my view.

The point that stood out to me was this one, spoken by Brigitte Gabriel to Saba Ahmed:

“There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today,” Gabriel said. “Of course not all of them are radicals. The majority of them are peaceful people. The radicals are estimated to be between 15-25 percent according to all intelligence services around the world.”

“That leaves 75 percent of (Muslims being) peaceful people. But when you look at 15-25 percent of the world’s Muslim population, you’re looking at 180 million to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization. That is as big as the United States,” Gabriel continued.

“So why should we worry about the radical 15-25 percent? Because it is the radicals that kill. Because it is the radicals that behead and massacre,” she said.

The article concluded with this, and ultimately what altered my original view:

Ahmed continued to miss the point and whine despite claiming that she cared about the Benghazi victims. That’s when talk radio host Chris Plante jumped in and drove it home: “Can you tell me the head of the Muslim peace movement?” after he made it clear that he understood her point and agreed that the war won’t be won with the military alone.

“I guess it’s me right now,” she responded.

SOURCE: WATCH: Conservative’s PERFECT Response After Muslim Says Most Muslims Aren’t Terrorists

I had not considered that the radical Muslim population could actually be so large, a point that is rarely if ever given in mainstream media. The exchange between myself and John on the blog post was enlightening in that although I generally lean left, I need to not dismiss other sides of the equation as it ends up just being imbalanced.  At no point did I consider the fact that there wasn’t a defined leader of the Muslim peace movement.  The point made by Chris Plante implied that peaceful Muslims were complicit in allowing the radical Muslims to exist without any resistance was powerful.

We have a very interesting climate in our country right now, fiercely divided and dug in like ticks.  Protests in the streets by Clinton supporters creates imbalance. Negative rhetoric by Trump supporters to anyone not supporting Trump creates imbalance. Freedom of speech is all well and good, but when it’s exercised to someone elses detriment, it seems ineffective. I’m not saying we should all be politically correct, but we have to admit that we don’t always listen when listening is necessary. It’s a two-way street.  There has to be, needs to be, a better way of solving our problems that doesn’t throw groups of people under the bus.

John properly supported his statements with the source that led him to his belief. I read the same source and came to the same conclusion that he did. It ended up changing my opinion in a way that brought both of us to the same playing field, shaking hands, sitting down and having a coffee. I think it was a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte, because it’s the holiday season. THIS is something that, in our social world, usually doesn’t happen because it’s so easy to “unfriend,” “block,” and “unfollow” the people who even hint at us questioning our opinion comfort zones. That place we would all live in a perfect world. That perfect world doesn’t exist, never has, and like in The Matrix, a perfect world would end up being rejected anyway. A belief that is stronger now that I’ve finished the Black Mirror series on Netflix (post on that coming soon).

I want to thank John, here, now, for taking the time to show that his point of view was not just conjecture. He chose to listen and understand me, before trying to be understood.

It takes time to learn to listen and understand others, especially when their views and opinions are based on questionable sources. It takes time and control to not get angry, hateful, or dismissive of others when what they’re saying doesn’t match what you think or potentially know to be true. It takes practice to actually listen rather than just hear as there is a difference between listening to coherent intelligent words and hearing “blah blah blah”. I wasn’t always open-minded, in fact I lost friends in the past because I refused to listen to what they were saying as it wasn’t what I believed. I attribute this growth to the fact that I’m older, wiser, and intolerant of behavior that is anything but respectful. My time is finite when in person, my energy measured, and disrespect doesn’t earn the privilege of my time or energy. You can learn to disagree with someone without being disrespectful. We all have views, opinions and passions; we need to embrace that in ourselves and others.

If we can’t learn to move past ourselves, how will anything ever get solved?

15 thoughts on “Listen to understand, then speak to be understood

  1. Wow! What can I say? — The post is very very well done and covers a lot of essential stuff that everyone needs to hear and ponder. (Thanks for the complimentary words, by the way.) — I operate from the point of understanding that dictates to me “Even the Divine Spirit is forbidden by universal law to rail against Satan but the only response to the temptations by Satan to make people engage in spiteful confrontations is “The Lord Rebuke Thee.” It cannot ever exceed those parameters by demand of The Creator’s own Laws.

    I may read a viewpoint that causes me to literally seethe with rage and to get hot unde the collar but I must always strive to be silent and listen and try to understand and then to ponder what the other side is saying because sometimes, somewhere down in the depth of what is being said, there is sometimes a truth that I might have overlooked and that I need to really dissect and investigate.

    So far I have done this quite well, I think.

    Usually the only time I get mad enough to slam the receiver down on a caller (commenter to the blog) is when they persist in calling me nasty names or something of such nature as a troll might decide to do. This is a rare occurrence and so all forms of ideas and notions and commonts are permitted because (A) I might learn something valuable for me to know, ((B) Something might be introduced that I had not previously thought of, (C) No idea, regardless of how far fetched I might think it to be because of my own built-in biases and prejudices, is worthless but something can always be found that is worth while if one is willing to wait, to listen, to ponder, to dig a little deeper , to change some old thoughts when they need changing and to know when the time is right to do so.

    It is not “My way or the highway” with me because I think that is what has gone wrong with the American Political dialogue today and I think it needs to be changed back to “Working across the aisles” if we are ever to get out of the quagmire we seem to have been in for at least the time since the elections of 2,000.
    I can be big-mouthed and arrogant about the things I believe but I can be changed if somebody can get past my hard-as-a-rock head and convince me.

    But I have to admit now (and I hate admitting it) there are times when I get defensive and dismissive of other folks and then later when I think about it I am ashamed. But one must realize that I am very mercurial and I hope people take some comfort in the fact that even though I can rant, rave, rage and seem very callous, virulent and vitrolic, I never really set out to hurt anyone when I start running my mouth.

    Your post is so educational.

    I find it totally fascinating — totally fair-minded — totally level-headed — totally in touch with reality — and I wish the whole world could have the opportunity to read it.

    • I knew all of this already 🙂 There’s a reason I’m still following you and commenting on your posts, I respect what you have to say although I don’t always agree.

      We’re leading by example and working across the aisle, virtually.

  2. I enjoyed reading this post and contemplating its content (through fever). I do want to comment briefly that I haven’t seen anything persuading me “radical Muslims” are anywhere near that percentage of the population, though I do agree with RFK, Jr. and Chomsky when they say U.S. acts are creating extremism.

    When the USG invades others’ countries for business opportunity and sells it as counter-terrorism, and when the U.S. drone-assassinates countless young men who might, they say, someday otherwise become terrorists, it is creating the very antagonism it purports to be squashing. Whatever percent it is (and I’d contend it’s much lower than suggested), it is inevitably increasing with each innocent killed.

    This shouldn’t be surprising to Americans. I mean, we have a whole sub-genre of revenge action flicks built around that! “You destroyed my life when you killed my [sister/friend/husband/son/mom], and now I will kill you!”

    Are there Muslim extremists (same as there are neo-Nazi extremists, etc.)? Yes. Were many created within a context of decades of U.S. sowing murderous unrest for profit? Also yes. Are we better off trying to put percentages to “radical Muslim” counts than listen and advocate for legitimate (not for-profit pretextual) peace? No.

    I recommend Chomsky’s essay “The Sledgehammer Worldview” for insight into the Shiite/Sunni divide many Iraqis say the U.S. created. The essay’s insights on U.S.-forced “identity politics” won’t surprise you in light of Dem primaries. U.S. politicians are now turning tactics deployed abroad inward.

    That’s why I worry about focusing on “bad” and “good” divides. They are used–often created and cultivated, actually–to separate us, which does not benefit us.

    And, gah. I went on way longer than I meant to!

    Time to curl up and clutch my stomach some more.

    • For the interested, here is Chomsky’s essay. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/24796-noam-chomsky-the-sledgehammer-worldview

      It’s no surprise to me that a simple blog post about the fire in Tennessee has now migrated to a very deep and complex discussion about the Muslim/U.S. rhetoric taking place.

      I so loathe labels in some contexts as, like you said, it ends up providing a convenient separation of no benefit. To the articles defense, they indicated 15-25% based on “intelligence” agency data (the quotes were purposeful). Whether it is that high or not, our (the U.S.) actions are creating the soup where these radical cells are created and growing in strength.

  3. I have written many posts showing that Muslims around the world have condemned the jihadi mindset….the problem is that most people do not want to hear them and usually by-pass my links and continue with the rant against most Muslims…..this brings us back to “Facts” which also got a bunch of comments….as soon as it is published I will send you a link to a\n op-ed I wrote for Ace News Room in the UK……excellent post my friend….chuq

  4. Yep.. I echo the others.. good post. It’s very difficult to seek a political balance when there’s so much static coming through. And right now in time there is a lot of static obscuring understanding on both sides. But I think a big part of it all has been the proliferation of fear.. and I suggest that it’s demonstrated on the left AND right. The right fearing the loss of conservative patriotism and something that used to be, and the left.. and others… fearing the outspoken pontifications of a maverick President-elect; and all of this happening in a world of instant communications.
    We all know that bloggers are the only one’s who have a TRUE grasp of the world. 🙂 When I grow up I wanna be a blogger.

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