Listening vs. Arguing

The state of our collective existence is plagued with many major issues, but lately there is one I cannot shake. With the influx of connectedness as a society we seemingly forgot about the importance of humanity. We hide behind screens attempting to persuade each other. Social media and being connected is not a bad thing. What irks me is the idea that we believe persuasion the best way to change someone else’s ideology.

Far too often I open an app or turn on a station to find people arguing themselves in circles, neither side ever hearing the other perspectives. Do not get me wrong, I love to and value a heated discussion, just ask my siblings. It just feels like we forgot how to listen. We became so obsessed with converting everyone to believe what we believe we lost the ability to agree to disagree. We lost the decency to listen to someone else, and in turn we forgot to think for ourselves.

From time to time I find myself in a discussion or argument with someone who I flat out believe is wrong. I want to just tell them, “you have no earthly idea what you are talking about”, but in my experience that does not change what they think or validate my argument.

What is the goal of persuasion? Merriam-Webster defines persuade as, “to cause (someone) to do something by asking, arguing, or giving reasons” and “to cause someone to believe something.” We are obsessed with this notion, but at what cost?

For lent in late high school one year I gave up giving unsolicited advice for forty days. By nature I admit, I love to be right. What I learned from those forty days is “right” is not as important as listening and processing with those around us. As humans we crave valuable interactions. We want to know and be known. We were created for relationships. But we spend so much of our time trying to convert everyone to think like us. Our actions seek validation instead of relationship.

It goes against every fiber of my competitive nature to not be right, but the depth and riches of relationship and respect for those different than us take root when we allow each other to not agree. I am not asking you to perpetuate relativism, but I am asking you to pause and take into account the art of listening instead of always trying to persuade.

If you find yourself working tirelessly to change what someone believes, maybe it’s best to instead hear what they think. Maybe the best way to change someone’s thoughts is to take stock of your own argument. How does your truth stand up to theirs? How does what you hold as truth stand up to scrutiny? Is what you are arguing even something you yourself believe, or do you just seek being correct?

At some point we began accepting things as true without investigating them thoroughly. When I hold what I believe as true up to the light and pick it apart, I find out if it I truly do believe it. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I do not. If I hold it as true then I should be able to talk someone through the why of what I believe. If I cannot then I need to look at what I believe.

If we all stopped and considered how we interacted, spent more time listening, and allowed ourselves to sometimes entertain the idea we might be wrong, then maybe just maybe we could actually get somewhere worth going together.

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