In past posts on this blog, I've suggested practicing your listening skills. Sometimes that's harder than others.
I've found it most difficult to really listen is when you have some notion that the person is going to say something you disagree with. Perhaps they identify as something you generally consider 'wrong'. This is not only an issue with religion, but various lifestyles, and -- of course -- politics.
Basically, there is a knee-jerk reaction to the label. Let's say you met someone named Joe who is an evangelical Christian. You have this preconceived notion of evangelical Christians that you have developed. Now, everything Joe says, you are filtering through that 'evangelical Christian' lens in your mind.
The problem with that is that Joe's life and experiences and opinions weren't formed with your lens-- so your lens may give a distorted view. You may assume a lot of things about Joe that simply aren't true. Instead of trying to understand where Joe is coming from, you've already heaped a bunch of pre-conceived notions on him.
This is sad, because Joe might actually be a good guy, with interesting insights. Despite the fact that you disagree with him, you could get along from him and learn from him. If you could learn to listen better, that is, to understand Joe rather than your perception of who Joe might be.
After all, wouldn't you expect Joe to drop his lenses and listen to what you're actually saying? Wouldn't you expect Joe to drop pre-conceived notions and listen to what you mean?
It doesn't have to be religion. It could be lifestyle-- perhaps you are an earthy person, and think people into makeup and fashion are shallow and frivolous. Perhaps a businessman may not understand why someone could want to be an artist.
Politics is a big one, and lately it’s gotten out of hand. I've been on numerous message boards where a person of one political party painted everyone from other political parties a certain way.
Democratic Representative Alan Grayson comes to mind, when he said, "If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: 'Die quickly.' That’s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick."
I think if Grayson truly listened to Republicans, he’d find their objections were simply to the means and methods of health care laws that Democrats were proposing; not that they wanted sick poor people to die. But listening through their ‘Republican lens’, this is what some Democrats like Grayson heard.
What’s worse, by broadcasting this, it helped millions of other people develop a ‘Republican lens’, or reinforced their own lenses that impede them from really listening. Likewise, Republicans have their ‘Democrat lenses’. And this has resulted in what politics are now: two major parties with both leaders and citizens who just do not really listen to what the other is saying. It’s enough to make you sick.
My Tip for You Today: Drop the filter, and listen to someone you don’t agree with.
Watch a Youtube video, read a book or a blog. Jump on a message board and have a conversation.
You may still disagree with the person you listen to, and that’s fine. The object is not to change your mind, but to try to understand what someone is saying without letting personal expectations, prejudices or preconceived notions of your own cloud that message before it comes through to you.
I’m warning you, it’s going to be hard. Those filters are pretty solidly in place. But it’s an incredible learning experience, not only of how you view others, but about how others might view you. You’ll begin to recognize your own filters, the filters of those you both agree with and disagree with. You’ll take differences less personally, you’ll learn to develop your ability to understand, empathize and have compassion for other people. You’ll learn to see past labels, and see people. You’ll become a better listener, and you will reap many benefits from this ability.
This will make you a better person; and a better Wiccan.