Listening courageously.

It can be intimidating, nerve-wracking, and sometimes even outright frightening to talk about the things we care about with people who disagree with us. Our beliefs are a part of us–they represent the values we hold, our core identities, and the visions we have for the future. Opening ourselves to the reality of a world where our beliefs aren’t shared universally can feel like a threat to these very values, identities, and futures that we hold dear. As we learn to listen more and listen better, we are taking courageous steps out of our comfort zone and into a more collaborative world.

It’s important to keep in mind why we seek out these conversations in the first place, especially when shutting out ideas we disagree can often feel easier and safer. The reason why we listen is because listening can change the world. Through listening, we resist the narrative that we always have been and always will be divided. Instead, we choose to see each other as human beings, and commit to creating new pathways towards a world where listening leads to liberation. It’s a big task, but it’s one we are all taking on together.

Some quick tips for listening courageously:

1. Question with courage. If someone says something you disagree with, ask them to explain their perspective, belief, or policy position. This opens up the opportunity for both you and your conversational partner to appreciate the gaps in your understanding, and the ways in which you can both learn from each other.

2. Don’t be a “logic bully.” Listening courageously entails actually listening, not bombarding your conversational partner with reasons why you’re right and they’re wrong.

3. Set the intention of changing listening conditions, not changing minds. If you establish a precedent for courageous listening, chances are, the people around you will grant you and others the same opportunity.

This listening tip is part of a weekly #PledgeToListen series which provides advice, examples, and perspectives on creating conversations across divides.

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