Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Listening as an Act of Citizenship

We are a country founded on the idea of citizen engagement, devoted to the idea of diversity of thought, and enamored with the rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Yet we find it difficult to listen to each other. And if we can't listen, we will tend to clump with only those we agree with, we won't work toward creative solutions to our shared and complex challenges --and we'll end up without room for ALL of us to achieve those American ideals.

But listening to those with strong opinions, different from our own, can be difficult. And if you're like me, you're out of practice.

We so readily jump in with our knee jerk reactions, usually without enough information, that listening, taking time to ask clarifying questions, and then listening some more is not in our skill set. So...

Today is Wednesday, the day several of our newspapers come out. As a way of practicing my listening skills in the privacy of my own home - before I test them in a real-time, human conversation -- I'm going to try an activity and hope you join me. Here's the task.

Find at least one article about county government and hold your opinions as best you can. Instead, consider what kind of information you'd like to have to make your understanding of the topic more complete.

Think about the people who might be involved in the topic who weren't quoted (meaning, what perspectives might be missing from the article?). Consider what you'd like to ask of them as well as of the people who were quoted. Do your best to not reach any conclusions, simply work to find some respectful, relevant questions.

For now, don't worry about getting all of the answers, just think about how this exercise impacted (or not) your sense of listening, rather than reacting.

Judy Feldman

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