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We’re All in This Together: Listening to Each Other in Troubled Times

by Lorraine Segal
July 2016

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

Lorraine Segal

Hope and despair in the landscape of today.

It is challenging to hold on to a hope of peaceful coexistence, harmony, and positive conflict resolution in light of all the mass shootings, terrorist attacks against social services people, children, LGBT people, Moslems, and police officers, and the multiple murders of African Americans by police officers.

In the past few months, I’ve witnessed (on TV, in person, on social media) hate speech,  rage, contempt, or actual violence toward women in general and Hilary Clinton specifically, toward immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, disabled people, LGBTQI people, Jews, Native Americans, Christians, citizens of many different countries, politicians, and police officers.

Hate is Hate.

The reason doesn’t matter. The justification doesn’t matter. The person or group or ideology doesn’t matter.  All hatred and demonization end up the same—seeing the other as less than human, a symbol of something bad rather than a person with hopes, dreams, and  flaws. Hate is blinding. It makes the other less worthy of tenderness and compassion and respect. so it becomes acceptable to vilify or destroy them, as symbols or to make a point, denying their human souls and ignoring that we are all in this small world together.

Hate dehumanizes both the target and the hater.

And  hate hurts everyone. If you hate anyone or any group, if you treat them as object, you are truly hating yourself without knowing it. Nothing good ever comes from hating.

The humanness of misunderstanding

It is a human tendency to make assumptions, to misunderstand those different from you, to tell yourself and those you know negative stories about the “other”.

Holding these false beliefs and assumptions  doesn’t make you bad, but it does make you mistaken. You don’t need to blame yourself for learning prejudice, for absorbing the propaganda all around, but you and I and each of us are responsible to wake up, to interrupt the hate and recognize the humanity we all share.

Listening deeply builds love instead of hate.

Over and over in my work with clients, in my classes, in my writing, I emphasize the power and possibility of empathy, of opening your heart and ears to listen, deeply and lovingly, to your inner self, and to the stories other people have to tell. We are  divided on the surface, yet our fears and needs are so much the same.

We all share the fundamental desire for connection, safety, meaning and purpose. All of us want to live a good life, free from fear, full of abundance and love, we want to do work that matters. If we can listen deeply to the words and feelings of those different from us, we can find  compassion and understanding.

 Listening is strength not weakness. 

Many people, especially those filled with hate and fear, hold the belief that listening is weakness. They think that strength is continuing to rigidly hold to a belief or pattern, unchanging. But an inability to take in new information, to grow and change in the light of new ideas, and abandon old beliefs that aren’t true or no longer serve you, is actually a terrible weakness. It makes people brittle instead of resilient, fearful and narrow instead of courageous, creative, and open hearted.

Trust change

All it takes to promote change is humble willingness and practice. Put aside labels, stereotypes, the hatred and suspicion of the “other” that almost all of us are taught in one way or another, listen without an agenda, and embrace our true mission–to love and care for each other, together as one.

As Dr.Martin Luther King famously said: “Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness. It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction — for everybody. Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate.”

Listening deeply can be a powerful tool to cut that chain.

 

Biography


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 



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