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

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