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Listening Tip #1

Posted by on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 in Uncategorized.

This week, I #PledgeToListen to understand, rather than to respond.

We often enter conversations with people who hold different perspectives than us expecting a debate or an argument. But pledging to listen doesn’t just mean pledging to hear–it means pledging to make an effort to understand.

We don’t just need to listen more—we need to listen better.

Listening to understand is listening for what’s behind the words. It entails a commitment to fully hearing what another person is saying, not just searching for mistakes or flaws in their beliefs, or waiting for your turn to speak. You don’t have to agree with what your conversational partner is saying, but listening to understand grants you the opportunity to walk away from a conversation knowing more about them, the way they see the world, and the ways you can build a better shared future that addresses both their needs and your own.

Some quick tips for listening to understand:

1. Start with values, rather than talking points. Make a list of your most important values, and keep an ear out for the way your values connect to those held by others.

2. Don’t go into conversations expecting to prove someone wrong, or to be proven wrong yourself. Listening isn’t about figuring out who’s right and who isn’t – it’s about acknowledging each others’ differing perspectives and shared humanity.

3. Hold back. Conversations aren’t one-way streets, they’re intersections. Genuinely wanting to listen is just as important as wanting to be heard yourself.

Listening better means recognizing that people’s perspectives are informed by their experiences. Watch this 3-minute clip from our October 2020 #PledgeToListen event to hear two longtime friends with different perspectives on gun control discuss the Second Amendment.

The full version of this event can be found here, on the Millions of Conversations YouTube channel.

Use Our Listening Guide

This listening tip is part of a weekly #PledgeToListen series which provides advice, examples, and perspectives on creating conversations across divides.

If you’d like to hear more about the work we do at Millions of Conversations, sign up for our newsletter to connect with our latest events, volunteer opportunities, and conversations.

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