It was important when I launched this website that I made sure anyone who reads this understands that these are simply my thoughts, my musings, which are meant to encourage you to share your own thoughts, musings and opinions. Those are two of the three ingredients involved in having conversation. The third ingredient is the ability to listen. In order to have conversation we need to shut up and listen. Otherwise it’s not conversation, it’s just two people espousing their opinions.
To truly listen we need to quiet our minds of our prejudice, bias, and our own need to be heard and often our need to be right. For me, the difficult part about conversation is silencing my thoughts so I can contemplate and interpret what the other person is saying, particularly when I vehemently disagree with them. Not an easy thing to do.
The impetus for this musing are the recent conversations I’ve had with some dear friends who are also Gymnastic icons: Kim Zmeskal, Betty Okino and Cathy Rigby. Each of them expressed to me their concerns about opening up. It was heartbreaking to hear them say they’ve declined to be interviewed this past year because they didn’t trust how the interviewer and editor might spin their statements. Moreover, they didn’t trust that the audience would listen with the intent of truly hearing their stories and not interject their own biases. Even after Kim shared her thoughts with me in a casual interview she became overwhelmed with emotion due to the concern others might misinterpret her words or intention—that her truth wouldn’t sit well with their bias.
I feel like we all need a crash course in how to be a more empathetic audience. To not just hear words, but to take the time to hear the intention behind the words.
One of the problems to having meaningful conversations, whether it be face to face or through the internet, is that people must feel safe to express themselves. People must feel that their opinions and stories will be heard as they relate to their own experiences versus translated through what someone else’s story entails. In order to have a conversation we need to validate the other persons feelings surrounding their experiences—even when… especially when… we don’t understand and don’t agree.
Everyone deserves the respect of Contemplative Listening.