listening

The Ultimate Real Estate in a Democracy: Common Ground

 

CEO Message

 

The Ultimate Real Estate in a Democracy: Common Ground

 

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i's Town Hall

 

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEOAs Hawai‘i real estate keeps getting pricier, I keep thinking of a different kind of real estate that is ultimately more valuable in a democracy.

 

Common ground in our national and local discourse: Priceless.

 

These are days when people don’t just disagree on issues; they have different sets of facts. And there’s a media voice catering to every opinion, affirming what one already believes, whether it’s true or not.

 

We all have reason to worry about our democracy, since its health depends upon shared core values, a level of trust in our leaders, and the reliability of information on which to act.

 

Hawai‘i is by no means seeing the kind of partisan polarization that is gripping the Continent, but we’re struggling to get our arms around and agree upon big issues, such as what to do about homelessness and how to support jobs with increasing automation in the workforce.

 

PBS Hawai‘i brings together Islanders with differing perspectives to engage directly with each other on many top-of-mind subjects and some issues that aren’t considered enough. Real democracies require real discussion.

 

This is not the same as what local daily broadcast news operations do – they generally try to tape separate interviews with the parties, and air the contained sound bites in a two-minute story in the newscast. (It’s not easy to convene people who disagree with each other, especially on short notice.)

 

On our weekly hour-long Insights on PBS Hawai‘i and our periodic two-hour KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall, people on different sides of issues meet face to face – and they’re being televised and streamed live. They show up, because they want to get their message across; because it’s the responsible, responsive thing to do; and because they trust us to treat them fairly. Once in a great while, when an issue is particularly volatile, we’re unable to get pro and con leaders to sit down together. And also infrequently, we end up with a lackluster program because we can’t get participants to depart from canned comments, to have a real conversation.

 

But most times, participants put aside any discomfort they may feel about engaging directly with opponents or critics and answering follow-up questions from our moderator. The best of these participants truly listen, instead of trying to cut short their opponents or simply waiting for their turn to speak. This leads to candid, meaningful exchanges that help viewers develop their own perspectives.

 

With today’s complicated societal challenges keeping us at odds and on hold, our mired democracy seriously needs this kind of civil discourse.

 

When you contribute your hard-earned dollars to PBS Hawai‘i, you are supporting the power of media for public service over profit and politics. And you’re supporting priceless common ground for the common good. Thank you!

 

Aloha nui,

Leslie signature


 

 

Don’t Just Wait for Your Turn to Speak, Listen!

 

CEO Message

Don’t Just Wait for Your Turn to Speak, Listen!

 

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEOWas 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.

 

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim: "Will you at least listen?"

 

“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,

 

Leslie signature

Leslie Wilcox
President and CEO
PBS Hawai‘i

 

POV
Listening is an Act of Love: A StoryCorps Special

 

This animated special from StoryCorps celebrates the transformative power of listening, featuring six stories from 10 years of the innovative oral history project, where everyday people sit down together to share memories and tackle life’s important questions.