Listening with Intent

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?

3 thoughts on “Listening with Intent

  1. I definitely agree with the quote, and I think it emphasizes one of the most frustrating moments when you’re trying to have an important conversation with someone. You might spend a lot of time preparing intelligent things to say, and ready to have a mature, respectful conversation with someone, but if all they’re doing is getting ready to come at you with stuff instead of having a thoughtful reaction to what you said to them, it causes people to get really burnt out really quickly. Anticipating moments like that are what often make me feel reluctant to strike up those kinds of conversations in the first place.

  2. i agree with the quote. I think it makes sense and can definitely be applied to all conversations that talk about race and race relations. a lot of conversations about race come from a positive place but they end in a place where people are very defensive. No on wants to be wrong and no one wants to be called racist, even though people are often both. So i agree that people enter into those conversations not trying to hear that other person’s ideas but mostly to defend theirs. i am not sure how to combat it other than continuously encouraging everyone to listen and to start conversations with an open mind because you could be the one who is wrong.

  3. I definitely agree with the quote. I can think of a handful of people who I KNOW listen to me when I speak and really hear what I’m saying, but I can think of more people who kind of pretend to or only listen some of the time. You want others to give your ideas a fair chance, but you won’t consider listening to their ideas? It’s a pretty hypocritical thing to do, if you think about it.

    I think listening with intent is especially important when talking about race. Whether I’m talking about people who are the same race as me or of a different race, it’s important to listen to them because we all experience race differently. I think it’s even more important to pay attention to people who have different experiences than you because I think that’s where we can start to combat stereotypes and generalizations.

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