I read a quote recently that stated, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply”. I think that this mindset and outlook on conversation is incredibly pertinent to any discussion about race, and quite frankly any discussion about any topic. My generation has grown up in a world where we get immediate gratification and responses from instantaneous media and technology, and the art of listening has fallen to the wayside. We are always thinking about what we can say next and how fast we can say it, and while having this dialogue inside our own heads, we might drown out the voices of others. Our brain’s capacity to attend to stimuli is limited, and the more space we take up with out own thoughts, the less room there is to simultaneously take in what we are hearing from others.
In conversations of race, it is fairly easy to offend others or find yourself becoming defensive. In a class dedicated to these kinds of sensitive topics, it is imperative to set ground rules for establishing a safe environment that encourages deep thought and expression of personal experiences, even if they are potentially controversial. Furthermore, we have emphasized the importance of listening, not just sharing. An active listener is not t thinking about what they want to say next or their laundry list of tasks to accomplish later in the day, but seeks to fully take in what they are hearing. Listening is more than just hearing but also involves making the conscious effort to be empathetic and sympathetic when possible, and develop a fuller picture of a scenario when we lack our own experience.
Do you agree with the quote? Do you think that we tend to listen with the intention of getting our chance to speak afterwards? How might we combat this?