Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The other side of the coin...

While I was driving on Tuesday, I was half-listening to Marcus Smith, the host of a radio news and information show. He was talking about what a beautiful morning it was in the sky was clear and blue, and the breeze was gentle. (It was almost the same here in Texas that morning.)

And then said something that caught my ear...

He started talking about how the clear skies and breezes were reality, for him.  But at the same time, Hurricane Sandy was bringing high winds and pouring rain and flooding and destruction to people on the east coast.  And at that exact same moment, their reality of weather and the day was very different from his.  Both could answer "what's the weather like?" and although nothing in their description would agree, both are completely true and accurate. And neither one is better than the other!

And then he connected the dots to other things in our lives, where we look at the world as though there is always one right answer to every question...or at least one best answer. But in reality, that just might not be the case.  The answer -- the right answer -- depends on where the speaker is standing.  Or where they came from. Or what experiences they've had in life.

I listened so closely, because like so many of us, this is something I have a problem with in my life.

It's not about the little things, like whether you think a pizza isn't complete until it's covered with green peppers, and I think only pineapple works. Those differences are easy to resolve, whether it's by doing a half-and-half pizza or ordering two.

And it's not about the big things...the life and death matters where I truly believe there is universally no wiggle room for opinions on whether it's okay or not (like child abuse, or rape or murder.)

It's about all the stuff in the middle. Like whether getting 8 hours of sleep a night is a must-do or if it's better to sleep less and do more. Or if you believe that bottle feeding is just fine for babies or breastfeeding is the only way to go.

In those kinds of differences, if I have a strong opinion, I have a tendency to spend more time proving my point, and less time listening to someone else's. Because to me, accepting their opinions quietly (before or after sharing mine) has always felt tantamount to agreeing.

It's not a 100% thing, mind you.  Often times I do listen and learn, and sometimes I do change my views after learning new information. And like most of us, my reasons for speaking up are usually benevolent -- I genuinely believe my information/view/experience will help them in some way.

But that respectful listening, and trying to understand where they're coming from, and why they believe as they do, is tough.  And when it's a real hot-button issue for me, it  doesn't happen as much of the time as I would like.

I want to do better. When I am tempted to shut down any objections to breastfeeding or natural childbirth, or jump into that conversation where someone is saying that you need meat to be healthy, I need to work on listening more.

I need to remind myself that listening, and trying to understand has nothing to do with agreeing. And it doesn't prevent me from sharing my reality any more than someone in Texas is prevented from sharing the day's weather with someone in Pennsylvania. It just means I have to remind myself that the right answer to the question just might depend on where each of us is standing -- even if we're only across the table.

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