Don’t Just Wait for Your Turn to Speak, Listen!
Was it an “Only in Hawai‘i” phenomenon?
Talking with me on Long Story Short back in 2008, Hawai‘i Island Mayor Harry Kim singled out a barrier he faced in settling contentious community issues.
The problem isn’t getting people to the table, he said. They show up, all right.
But too often, they’re interested only in telling their side. Mayor Kim has seen the abyss between hearing and listening.
“Will you at least…listen?” he would ask assembled opponents. “Will you listen to the other side, then talk?”
Author Stephen R. Covey put it this way: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Or as John Wayne commented drily to a big talker in one of his cowboy movies, “You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”
Hardly a new phenomenon, this practice of not listening has picked up steam. Talking heads on cable television have made it a tradition to shout over each other, and political town halls devolve into parallel rants. Courtesy is a quaint notion.
Here at PBS Hawai‘i, we don’t claim to have the answers. We believe that a path to understanding is civil discourse. We’re convinced that listening is as important as speaking.
That’s why we’ve become a trusted space for roundtable forums, one-on-one interviews and diverse group discussions.
The idea is to rely on active listening and grow a conversation that is far more illuminating than the setting forth of respective opinions.
If nothing else, listening guides you in knowing what to say and when, to best effect.
As 2017 comes to a close, I think of competing strident voices I’ve heard over the year; of many simmering issues in this country; and of people facing each other to talk, not listen.
My wish for the new year is a leavening of respect for others and understanding.
I’m not saying this will cure our ills, but I bet we’d have some breakthroughs.
We can start by being short on mouth and long on ears.
Wishing you peace,
President and CEO