On Listening

One of my personal policies has always been this — don’t talk about politics online (except for the occasional comedic jab at the absurdity of a debate). The reason I said I would not talk about politics comes down to the sad reality that people do not know how to communicate. They don’t know how to talk to each other but, most of all, they don’t know how to listen.

Remove the words “Republican” and “Democrat” from the discussion. It’s clear people feel unheard. Some felt so unheard that last night the promise of having a voice trumped some terrifying public behavior (no pun intended). Others feel the few decibels of voice they had have been resoundingly silenced and will be permanently muted by this result.

If we’re all in a room shouting to be heard, we will hear none. If we’re all in the room shouting to be heard and fighting over a microphone, we will not only hear none, we’ll spend all of eternity fighting for the power to be the loudest at the expense of progress, peace and equality. That’s not a world I want to live in.

Something needs to change, and it needs to start with us. Think before you speak or write. Read. Seek new sources. Have a conversation face-to-face. Put your phone down and look the person in the eye. Really listen to what he or she is saying. Don’t formulate your reply (or rant) in your head as they speak.

Appreciate people who have the courage to be vulnerable and share their experiences. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable yourself. Sound too emotional for you? I’m not sorry. Vulnerability is power. It makes us authentic and it’s the only way we can connect to make things better. Yes, authenticity can be ugly and uncomfortable, but it has to happen.

I’ll go first. What I’m most concerned about is the example we have set as a result of this election. What hits me most personally is sexism. I’ve been called a C-word to my face and behind my back simply for doing my job and was once told I should “bend over” so I could be given “a good spanking” while working. In all instances I just proceeded and did my job as professionally as possible then later regretted I didn’t stand up for myself.

I’m far from the only woman to encounter this, and it is not okay. Trump has said things of a similar sentiment. He is our next president. Children are taught this is the most important person in the country. Bullying, racism and sexism aren’t just a reality, but it feels like this behavior has been actively rewarded.

This is all bad, but I have to hope good lies in truth. My truth is just one of many and I’ve been trying to listen to many truths today. Everyone has a truth no matter who you voted for, your gender, sexual preference, religion, race, economic, cultural background, etc. I’m proud I was raised in a state where “Live Free or Die” is the motto and grateful I have the privilege to explore that freedom both in thought and action.

I keep reminding myself this — a candidate doesn’t change the fact that we all have a voice and deserve to be heard. The fight to hear and help others be heard lies with all of us each and every day. Keep listening, and let’s fight the good fight together.

Originally posted on Facebook, Nov. 11, 2016

On Things We Learned in the Sandbox (Or While Eating Rubber Cement)

From the glasses I look through, this week wasn’t about politics, it was about humanity.

If you’re wondering why people are still upset about the election, regardless of who you voted (or didn’t vote for), it’s likely because you’re coming from a different starting point. We all make decisions from our own needs, desires and perspectives.

A friend used the word “psychological triggers” to explain the turmoil. I couldn’t agree more — everything I’ve read and seen calls to mind values, sayings and words of wisdom instilled in many of us since kindergarten. Many important lessons feel as though they’ve been violated, twisted, cherry-picked, etc. as everyone comes to terms with the state of the country. Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t help thinking about kids. In red state or blue, I’m almost positive they’ve heard the same guidelines and sentiment I’ve carried with me since childhood.

This goldenish rule was shattered:

— Bystanders are as culpable as bullies if they stand by without taking action. —

If true, filling out a bubble for someone to take actions on one’s behalf is an endorsement of that person for both good behavior and bad.

I have serious concerns about this statement:

— It’s not only my privilege but my duty as an American citizen to vote. —

This always felt like a call to action for my generation with an emphasis on proactivity. This week I’ve seen just as many saying “we’ll see” and “let’s hope.” Comments like these come off as complacency with an emphasis on reactivity. This feels like hypocrisy.

This seems like an excuse:

— “Actions speak louder than words.” —

I get the sentiment, and I know campaign promises are filled with more words than actions, but it’s just not entirely true. Words do matter and dictate action. When you exchange words with someone from an entirely different point of view, the words you choose set the tone for the exchange. They determine whether you have a healthy conversation or the urge to knock someone’s teeth out. When you say hurtful things to people, they have the right to speak back and people have the right to be angry and scared. Further, when you pick words out of a message that are meaningful in a sentence, statement, etc. while ignoring the many other words that sandwich them, be aware other people are also picking other words out of the same sentence, statement, etc. Words that might feel comforting to you in your situation feel like terror to people that are in a completely different one.

Actions shouldn’t speak louder than words at the expense of thoughtfulness. As much as this is true, intention and heart should speak louder than vocabulary level — even if someone’s words aren’t perfect, that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

I recently learned the definition of the word gaslighting. It’s a psychological term that means you’re manipulated into “doubting [your] own memory, perception, and sanity” (thank you, Wikipedia). I’m willing to bet if we could all instantly morph into our 7-year-old selves, many of us would feel gaslighted by this week.

Originally on Facebook, Nov. 11, 2016

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