Are You Listening?
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
November winds creep into our bones
Whispering of winter's imminent arrival
The hours of daylight narrow
Decreasing our sunshine, within and without
Trees stand naked
Swaying to the rhythm of winter's breath
The natural world mirroring our emotions
Remembering our fallen soldiers
Wondering about our future
In this cold, grey barrenness there is remembrance
This season will pass and a new one will begin
And even in this season of dormancy and decay
There is beauty
The late harvest and it's full orange moon on the horizon
Settling into the embrace of indoor fires
Hot cocoa, casseroles, baking, and preserves
Warming us, within and without
An opportunity for reflection
To navigate this season
And every season
Fuelled by an internal flame
November has always felt like a grey month to me. Where I live, it is the start of winter. Not the fluffy, white-snowed winter of December, filled with Christmas decorations and festivities. It is the in-between space - too late for the beauty of fall colours and too early for the festivities of winter. It is the shoulder season.
So what are the opportunities that November provides? With less external activity, there is space for thinking about things more deeply. One of the things I have been thinking about lately is the division and polarization we seem to be experiencing in our world. We are on the eve of the U.S. election and the country seems divided on so many issues. And in Canada, our division is also along idealogical and political lines, but it is also regional. Every part of the country is fixated on their own immediate concerns and seem to have little compassion for the concerns of other parts of the country.
I don't think of myself as a political person, but I feel there is something even deeper going on. I watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, and it poses an explanation for why our world is becoming increasingly polarized. Now that we have access to so much information from a variety of sources, we are no longer hearing the same things. Google searches and social media are feeding our biases. We are no longer hearing or reading the counter-arguments to our favoured perspective. Whatever my leanings are, my search for information is customized for me and keeps supporting my existing beliefs. So when I encounter other people that believe something different from me, I am armed with mountains of data to support my perspective, and so are they. So how can we come to a meeting of the minds?
I once heard this statement that, "If you are not willing to change your perspective on a topic, you are not really listening." And that is what seems to be happening in our world at this moment in history. We are all coming to the public forum with deeply entrenched beliefs and values and we are not prepared to change them. So we are not listening to opposing points of view except to rebut them with our point of view. And it makes me wonder what we are hoping to achieve. Is it reasonable for me to think that if I have enough evidence to support my point of view that I can convince another person that they are completely wrong, that they are bad or should feel guilty for their perspective and then thank me and adopt my point of view? Of course not. Nor is it reasonable for others to do the same to me. So instead of trying to convince others that we are right and they are wrong, what if we talked about what we want the world to be like? What is the common ground? What is the a win/win? The win/lose paradigm is not working for us because ultimately it is leading to lose/lose.
There is that saying, "Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?" I posed that question to my husband once when he was arguing his point and creating a negative feeling in the person he was arguing with and everyone listening to it. He responded, "I am happy because I am right." We all laughed, but actually, I don't think it was very funny. I don't think we can be happy by making others wrong. Because eventually they will get angry and want to make us wrong. The pendulum will swing back and forth.
Perhaps I am idealizing things by hoping for the possibility of conversations leading to social and political change that could benefit everyone. But could we at least try to listen to each other? Could we imagine what it would be like to be in the other's shoes? Could we be creative and come up with new solutions?
I am taking a course right now called Positive Intelligence (https://www.positiveintelligence.com/). In the course the founder, Shirzad Chamine, talks about using the "yes and..." method for bringing people together and brainstorming for the most innovative ideas. "Yes and..." is something improv comedians use to create their improvisational performances. The rule is that whatever one actor suggests in the skit, the other actor(s) has to agree with and then add onto it. If improv actors don't follow this rule, the scene shuts down quickly because there is nothing to build on. Using this "yes and" at work or in school or in politics could lead to some big breakthroughs. In his Positive Intelligence course, Shirzad suggests that we acknowledge that a person with an opposing view on a topic of discussion is at least 10% right about their point of view. So when they share their idea, we can say, "Yes! What I like about that is..." and then state the 10% that we can agree with. Then we can add onto it with our own idea. Ideally the person with the opposing view will "yes and" our idea and we can build from there.
So my question for this month is, "Will you try to listen to other points of view? To really listen. To really be willing to change your opinion on a topic. And could you even try to "yes and..." other people's point of view and see if you can come up with some creative solutions and ideas together? What kind of world could we create if we actually did this? If you are willing to try really listening to alternative viewpoints this month, click the like button below or on the social media forum you found this post. If you are willing to play the "yes and..." game, you could start by writing in the comments below or on social media or our Weekly ONE Thing Facebook Group, "yes and what I like about this idea of really listening is..." and follow up with the 10% (or more) that you agree with and add on from there. It could generate some interesting ideas. It could allow us to hear others and be heard. I think that is something we are all longing for. What a gift to give each other at a time we could really use it!