To listen or to silence? To hear or to negate? These are the critical questions of our day and age, and this article will serve as food for thought and help orient us within the dynamic human ecosystem in which we live.
Imagine for a moment how rich in diversity our world truly is. From ecology to art to industry, we live in a miraculous multi-dimensional garden full of uniqueness, creativity, surprise and variance. Human minds, which encapsulate thought, emotion, perception and consciousness, are their own idiosyncratic, botanical realms.
The way I perceive the world in my mind is subjective to me and is likely not the same as your vision. It is as if there are various realms of realities within a shared world. The mind, like the world we live in, can be a mystery to be unlocked. When it comes to engaging with people with whom we disagree, the mind can be a troubling puzzle of parts that does not make sense.
The mind, like the world we live in, can be a mystery to be unlocked.
Diversity leads us to language. Language can be a profound expression of individuals or communities’ psychology, humanity and lived experience in conjunction with cultural variations and identities. Language, spoken by members of the same community, can also demonstrate polarity in a complex world.
If I were to say something outside of your worldview, it might be perceived as intriguing, useless or even dangerous. In our modern world, what people say and how they choose to say it can highlight major social, political or intellectual differences. It is only inevitable, then, that rage and chaos could formulate in all that diversity, making it often impossible for people to communicate in a “shared” world.
What people say and how they choose to say it can highlight major social, political or intellectual differences.
To Listen or To Silence?
The battle is clear these days: Do I listen to something someone said that I do not like or do I silence it? Social media can be a barrage of in-your-face posts, memes and videos where people’s bite-sized rationales may fall diametrically in opposition to yours. It is all good if you agree, but it is totally different when things get hot and spicy.
In every scenario where the choice to listen or to silence comes up, it is important to slow down your internal process and notice what is happening in your thoughts and emotions.
Are you triggered by what was said? What is coming up emotionally? If you were to silence that person, how does it help you, your cause or the other person?
In this instance, the key is to not allow your knee-jerk response to dominate your actions without reflecting and playing out the long-term impact of your decision.
The key is to not allow your knee-jerk response to dominate your actions without real reflection.
To Hear or To Negate?
On the battlefield of differences, negation is inevitable. When someone strongly disagrees with another person, absolute negation to the point of complete elimination becomes more and more possible. Is thinking this way helpful to you and others? In what way?
Let us break down the word helpful in this case. To help is to serve or support others. This might mean offering aid to the weak or the most vulnerable, although it can certainly pertain to all people as opposed to those who are just on your side.
One of the greatest acts of service is to listen to someone else. In my training as a psychotherapist, I understand that to give someone space to speak their mind, even if I disagree, allows the speaker to feel heard and respected. Every time one does this, it allows for the possibility of greater understanding throughout time.
To give someone space to speak their mind, even if I disagree, allows the speaker to feel heard and respected.
Does understanding happen immediately? No, it does not. Could it happen at some point? Yes, it could, especially if you are one to seek out some thread of commonality.
To hear or negate others with whom you agree or disagree with carries its own unique meaning. It could be helpful as much as it may not be. You may feel more hurt when hearing a horrid reality from someone else’s mouth. You may leave the conversation feeling utterly drained and quasi-nauseous from exposing yourself to someone’s opinions or ideas. Your trauma may even be triggered. On the other hand, you may learn something new, gain insight about a topic or shatter a misconception.
The Modern-Day Dilemma
In my lifetime, I have never observed more palpable division and polarity as I have in this day and age. The nature of these divisions vary. Yet, it is clear that we have arrived at an existential chasm. What do you do next? What do we do together?
Social dilemmas are deeply personal issues at their roots. To listen or to censor is, then, a personal and social dilemma that runs deep within the fault line of our world. Underneath the surface of the earth, roots link to others, similar to those in the human ecosystem. It is in this metaphor that you can reflect upon the decision to listen or censor and the meaning of both for you.
How can you engage in the diverse ideas and opinions that comprise the human ecosystem? In what ways can you make space for others even when you disagree?
Image via Martha Galvan, Darling Issue No. 17