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Listening is an important attribute of maturity and compassion


Dear Editor:

I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to attend the recent community event in Walla Walla that enabled local speakers to share their feelings about living in a racist society and was utterly impressed by the manner in which both presenters and other attendees respectfully treated one another.  My experience has stayed with me and I have built upon it with conversations, readings, and exposure to history via other media.  The willingness and capacity to listen to anybody with a very different story to tell are important attributes of maturity and compassion.  Learning requires listening and reflection.  A person turning away from beneficial learning of new subjects with indifference, disdain, crude humor, or fear reveals more about the person than the information being shared.  As with many of our habits and conventions now unraveling, for reasons that can be easily understood if viewed closely without triggering personal wounds, the old fashioned notion of debating required deeply thoughtful preparation, honoring the opposing view because one has worked to understand it as fully as possible and respecting the person or people courageous enough to stand up and debate.  I’m an old guy but I suggest the art of debate died back in presidential debates of the 60s and, thanks in part to political pressures, have never fully recovered their legitimate position in public discourse.  It became and remains posturing pronouncements that have relied increasingly on denying emotions, dismissing complex ideas, bullying one another with contempt, and refusing to view the subject through another’s eyes.  Contempt in marriage and politics is just another way of admitting the failure to connect. Winning became preferable to coming to any kind of respectful rational agreement because the potential payoff to the abusive person grew larger and larger.  I have always appreciated the notion of “lose-lose” versus “win-lose”. It was a term I first heard from private sector developers working extremely complex challenges requiring the fostering of fragile partnerships with diverse groups having sharply conflicting agendas.  The skillful practice of “lose-lose” addressed a routinely expensive friction while carefully proceeding to successful outcomes and implied that everybody left something important to them on the table while doing the deal.  We are the deal and we are the table. 

Terry Lawhead

Waitsburg, WA


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