Listening. It’s something that’s been challenging me lately.

I love to talk, I love to write and I love to be heard. I don’t always listen the best. But I’ve come to realize that I can’t expect to be heard if I don’t try to listen to the people around me.

I’m working on it. When I make a conscious effort to let other people talk more, I find that I enjoy listening. I enjoy hearing the things that drive people’s passions. I love it when their eyes get wide with excitement because someone took the time to hear what they have to say.

We should listen  to understand, not listen to respond. It’s the kind of listening that is hard because it takes time and energy.

Right now, a lot of people are talking. Sometimes it’s civilized, but too many times it turns into a yelling match. It’s almost like we’re trying to find out who can yell the loudest, and then we award the loudest person with a win (or a presidency).

In the end, people just walk away frustrated. They don’t gain anything for that interaction other than a renewed belief that they’re right and the other side is not listening to them.

We can’t afford to go on like that. If we continue to walk away from conversations more convinced that we’re right and the other side just isn’t listening, we’ll make the division even worse.

If we don’t allow ourselves to see any holes in our own arguments, we can never admit when we’re wrong. That’s what scares me: a time when we can’t admit that we’re wrong. It doesn’t allow room for growth or learning.

But growth and learning are vital to our survival. Without growth, learning and an ability to admit when we’re wrong, we would still think that the earth was flat or that smoking was good for your health.

We can’t be afraid to admit when we’re wrong; we can’t be afraid to learn or grow. Because if we stay afraid of those things, we’ll never actually listen to other people.

When we listen, we need to be aware that we can’t tell someone how to feel.

There is no right or wrong emotion; some are worse than others if dealt with in an unhealthy way, but no emotion is inherently wrong. Each person is entitled to whatever emotion they feel. We can’t tell them to change it.

All we can do is listen. We can validate their experience and their emotion.

Listening doesn’t always come easy to me; it’s not my strongest quality. But I’m working on it. I remember to be okay with sitting there, not responding.

The truth is, we don’t always have the right answers. And if we allowed ourselves room to admit our mistakes, we wouldn’t feel so pressured to find them, and maybe we’d just sit with our questions. Maybe then we’d have respectful conversations.

All because we took the time to listen to someone else.