The assumption that we hear or remember what others say, when we actually hear or remember what we think about what others say, is a major blind spot. According to Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligences, researchers have found that:
- We drop out of conversations every twelve to eighteen seconds to process what people are saying.
- We often remember what we think about what another person is saying because it has such a strong internal process and chemical signal. In other words, our internal listening and dialogue trumps the other person’s speech.
Even if we are trying to be open to others’ perspectives, there’s a good chance we may have missed the point. While we invariably THINK we know what was said, we are still hearing ourselves. Even the most self-aware on the planet struggle with this.
So what can we do to increase our capacity to listen to someone else’s point of view?
Point of View (POV) starts with YOU:
- Recognize that there is a reality gap. Your reality and mine are not the same. You and I have different experiences, we know different people, we come from different parts of the world, and we use different language to label our world. Even those of us who are in the same room at the same time will take away different impressions of our time together. Not convinced? Read the four Gospels, all first-hand accounts of Jesus, and notice the different agendas, angles of vision, and how the stories are told. All are valid, by the way.
- Celebrate diversity of opinion, perspective, and culture. Men and women have notoriously managed problem-solving in different ways, yet they may even reach the same conclusion. People from different cultures, even those as subtle as growing up in two different families in the same neighborhood, look at life through different lenses. Getting hung up on the “right” answer, “right” response or “right” way reduces the richness of God’s world to a black and white mono-culture that denies the beauty of creation and each person’s unique fingerprints on the planet.
- Be a POV advocate. Stop ignoring stereotyping, gross generalizations, bad jokes, and assumptions in yourself and in others. Literally stop being okay with pointing fingers at others before you have a conversation to understand their perspectives. Listening is the only real cure to recognizing our own ignorance. We don’t know what we don’t know. That doesn’t mean it is wrong or bad, it just means that we don’t know.
We live in a time that demands that people of faith listen more than they talk and when they do talk, it is with a sensitivity and affirmation of the diversity of POV. Jesus modeled this over and over as he gave dignity to Zacchaeus, a despised thief who used the guise of collecting taxes to steal. Jesus asked pointed questions of and listened carefully to the woman at the well, a nobody who was so shunned by her peers that she came to the well at midday to avoid the gossip and ridicule.
We are called to be people who bless POV as a gift from God to be celebrated, not reduced to them and us. There is more than one “right” POV to embrace. Thanks be to God