Mar 19, 2017
Over the years, I discovered the difficulty of conversation with some people. Interruptions can be annoying and often rude, but it often seems justified by a long-winded response or statement. We should avoid interruptions, but we should also avoid monopolizing the conversation. A point of view should not be expanded into a lecture or a sermon; the difference being the imposition of moral supremacy. Shallow moral supremacy has earned the term ‘virtue signaling.’
Try this trick; when one does interrupt, avoid the temptation to elevate your voice and talk over them. Just stop talking. See if they return to you and ask you to complete your point. I will bet that 90% of the time they do not. This means they were not listening to you or uninterested in whatever you had to say. If this happens more than a few times you will seek to avoid conversation with this person in the future.
Good conversationalists are interested in understanding before they seek to be understood. Most just seek to be confirmed in their view. This leads to our own conversational bubbles, a form of a self-induced intellectual ghetto.
On a larger scale this occurs in our national political conversation. In an election that surprised so many, it is disconcerting how reluctant many are to try to understand what happened. Many have fallen for blaming nefarious activities and conspiracy theories to avoid any consideration of an ideological shift.
Obama’s first victory was much easier to accept. The combination of the ill-fated Iraq War and the economic collapse on election eve constituted an insurmountable barrier. But there were similar claims and conspiracies about Obama, beginning but not ending with the birther nonsense. Some of us who considered his election a circumstantial fluke had to reconsider when he was re-elected.
Perhaps history, like economics, moves in cycles. Adversity breeds action, action breeds success, success breeds complacency, and complacency breads collapse and adversity.
Listening with the intent to understand is the ultimate sign of respect. Without it we just increase our isolation and partisanship. Demonizing and attributing pathologies to opposing views is just another way of not listening.