The American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and another to hear.” As we look back on the past two weeks of protests, demonstrations, and unrest, I find myself reflecting on how we are still battling the same problems of racism, intolerance, and bigotry that have plagued this nation for more than 400 years. I can’t help but feel that one of the reasons is an unfortunate and all-too common trait: the inability or unwillingness to truly listen.
The above quote by Thoreau strikes me because at a time like this it is more important than ever to speak less and listen more. Many people in positions of authority, influence, and power, seem compelled to impulsively act in response, without having a grasp of what life is like for an entire community facing social, economic, and racial inequality.
Alternatively, we need to engage in active listening. Listening with an open mind and an open heart. Listening unconditionally and without judgment. Listening for the purpose of sensing the way others feel. From that place comes empathy. And from that empathy comes compassion. It is only with this compassion that we can begin to be true advocates for transformational change.
While I don’t have all the answers, I know there’s more I can be doing to help drive the change we all want to see. And it starts with me being a better listener. I hope you will join me.