Learning to Listen


Often times I now find myself staying out of political discussions with people I don’t know or people I’ve just met. I suppose I’m slower than I once was to vocally announce my values to the world, or to people I’m meeting for the first time. This probably comes from my desire to learn about people before I get into a knock down drag out fight over abortion or torture or even boring subjects like the value of a voucher program in the educational system.

Before, when I was younger, it was more about winning arguments than it was about engaging in meaningful conversation with another human being. It was more about converting, sans a desire or willingness to be converted. But, as I grow older, I’ve found that I’m more willing to look at the issues, desiring to understand why a person believes what they believe, rather than thinking a person is bad for believing what they believe. I’ve become more willing to stand in complete ambivalence on some issues and not mind at all. And believe me, as a person who likes to have an opinion on everything, ambivalence is a hard position to take.

Don’t get me wrong, I have opinions, and most people that know me know that I’m not afraid to share them with you. I’ve just become more accustom to listening and observing. I’ve also come to realize that just because I don’t agree with a person on everything doesn’t mean everything they say is void or lacks incite. Far too often we throw people into a box and say that because they believe X then Y and Z can never be looked at and that person must always be defined by X, a mindset I find appalling.

In politics today we are always on the look out for the hypocrite or what is known now as the “flip flopper.” I can see someone being disgusted with a person like Arlen Specter, who for one reason, to keep his political career going, switches parties. The guy is a creep and doesn’t deserve to be a servant to the people. But we have to be careful that we are not pinning the hypocrite label on someone that just simply changes their mind.

This post is geared more to those young people that want to get involved with politics, the best thing you can do is listen. Form opinions, and don’t try to convert people, just understand them. Let people know that you understand their point of view and make sure they understand yours.

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