Assignment prompt: At the core of any good dialogue is not the ability to talk louder than another person but rather the ability to listen calmly to diverse perspectives. You can always learn more by listening to other points of view, especially those you disagree with. Spend as much time as possible listening to what other people have to say, even when you are sure of your position. Understanding and appreciating others’ positions is the first step in persuading people to accept yours.
Adapted from Libuse Binder, Ten Ways to Change the World in Your Twenties
Assignment: Is listening more important than speaking when you are trying to persuade others? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
When people communicate with others, there is one main obstacle that prevents them from finding a common ground: their ego. As Libuse Binder said in her book Ten Ways to Change the World in Your Twenties, a good dialogue is based on our ability to listen to other points of view, even when we don’t agree with them.
If we are trying to persuade other people of a particular stand, it is important to listen and understand them without losing our beliefs. When we learn how to preserve calm state of mind during a discussion, we will listen to other people’s arguments without being affected by their tension. Then, the communication is transformed from a dispute to a situation we can learn from.
The problem in having a good dialogue goes beyond people’s ability to listen. Talking is another serious issue. Most people don’t know how to express their opinions in a simple, direct manner. They bother the other person with unnecessary details, thinking they would “win” the discussion if they talk more.
If we don’t listen, and the person talking to us doesn’t know how to express himself, there is no foundation for healthy communication. However, being a good listener does make a change. When we try to listen and understand, we can follow the mind patterns of the other person.
Even if his arguments are alternating from one subject to another, we will be able to find a bridge that brings the conversation back to the main point.
If we are having a dialogue without trying to listen carefully, we will only hear the things we can hook to. Our main goal is to prove the other person wrong, so we don’t bother questioning our own positions. We only try to catch onto a single argument that would help us prove our point.
People are inclined to be reserved towards the things they don’t understand. When they face opinions that push them out of their comfort zone, they are rarely capable to enable smooth flow of information. Our ego doesn’t allow us to accept ignorance.
The quest to becoming a good listener involves self-examination and acceptance. There is only one certain way of persuading others: we need to believe in the arguments we present. Although we are individual beings with our own moral and intellectual standards, the truth is universal. Before we present an argument, we need to believe in it.
If the other person already presented a similar opinion, we should come to an agreement without trying to oppose only to distinguish ourselves as unique.
When someone is a good listener, every dialogue teaches him to confront his own weaknesses, pride, fears, and the reasons behind those attitudes. Trying to persuade the other person without making an effort to understand his point of view doesn’t lead us to a successful discussion.
The only way to turn communication into a personally-rewarding experience is to listen and speak for the sake of truth; not for our ego and self-promotion.
Read new assignment prompt “If we are afraid to reveal our lack of knowledge we will not be able to learn.”