“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”—Winston Churchill
What does it take to sit down and listen to someone we disagree with, instead of dismissing them as the enemy or turning to violence?
First we must accept that they are full and imperfect human beings, just as we are, not cardboard characters in our own personal or professional drama.
Second, we must understand that good people can hold different beliefs and opinions. We may find their views wrong or event abhorrent, but must not equate that with believing they are themselves evil.
We must also understand that listening isn’t the same as agreeing. We can listen to the perspective, history, and motivations of others without abandoning our own beliefs. We can embrace their humanity and acknowledge what we have in common even when we disagree.
Instead of demonizing them as the enemy, we must find a way to open our hearts and spirits to a bigger reality holding multiple truths. This can be a frightening concept to those who find safety in holding fast to narrow certainties.
My work as a communication coach and mediator is always to offer support and gentle awareness that strengthens clients’ compassion for themselves and others. With willingness and practice, we can all find peaceful, creative ways to work through conflicts and honor our differences.